Low Income Housing Assistance Guide: The Section 8 Housing Voucher Program
The Section 8 Housing Program also called the Housing Choice Voucher Program is a housing assistance program available to the low income. If you are a single parent or a low income family you know how difficult it can be to manage rent costs that are continually on the rise. Rent costs are a huge issue for many parents as they have many other expenses to worry about as well. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program and how it can benefit you.
What is the Section 8 Housing Choice Program?
This program is a housing assistance program for low income families that reduces the amount of rent you will have to pay. Basically you are able to look for suitable housing of your choice on the housing market and you will only have to make a portion the rent payments. You will receive a ‘voucher’ or your local Public Housing Agency will provide the voucher to your landlord allowing you to only have to pay anywhere from 30-40% of your total rent payment.
If you are accepted into this program you will receive one of two vouchers as follows:
- Tenant Based Voucher: this voucher allows you to move to any home you want and your voucher will carry over to the next home you move into.
- Project based voucher: your voucher is only valid in the unit that the voucher was issued in. Your voucher is only valid for a set amount of time.
This program is often preferred over the Low Income Public Housing Program as this program allows you to choose your own housing while the Low Income Program does not.
The housing is not restricted to just apartments, you can live in condos and single standing houses as well.
Am I Eligible?
In general you must be a low income family to qualify. Low income is divided into three sub categories as follows:
- low income household: earns no more then 80% of local median income.
- very low income household: earns no more then 50% of local median income.
- extremely low income household: earns no more then 30% of local median income.
Generally, your household income cannot be more than 50% of the median income in the area that your family lives, however it does range from 30%-80%.Your income is determined in correlation with the number of people living in your household. The more working age individuals that living in your household the higher your family income will have to be.
It is important to know that you will not always qualify for the Housing Voucher Program even if you meet the qualifications. If you live in a large city the waiting lists are often very long where they will randomly select families from the list when more spots become available. Some cities have even stopped accepting applications due to the high demand. Nonetheless, you should still apply, even if you are placed on a waiting list it is still worth it as you never know how long you will need assistance for.
Certain priorities are placed on families that fall under the extremely low income category. Also priorities are given to the following:
- those who currently live in a shelter
- those who have a disability
- single parents with multiple children
- those working more than 42 hours per week
How is my Rent Payment Calculated?
Rent payments are calculated by using a formula called the Total Tenant Payment(TTP). Basically your TTP is based on your family income less and deductions you might have. First to calculate your TTP, your annual adjusted income and annual gross income must be converted to adjusted monthly income as well as monthly gross income by dividing the annual figures by 12 months. Then your TTP is calculated by taking the greater of:
- 30 percent of monthly adjusted income.
- 10 percent of monthly gross income
- the welfare rent
- the Public Housing Agency minimum rent.
You minimum amount of rent you will have to pay is $210. As you start to earn more money and your income rises, you will have to start paying a large portion of your rent. Once your income is over the 80% of your area median income you will then have to cover your rent payment in its entirety.
How to Apply
In order to apply for the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program you must contact what is called your local Public Housing Agency. An appointment will be made with your Public Housing Agency where you will discuss your income and your current living situation. You can use this Housing Agency locator to find the housing agency nearest you.
Choosing an Apartment
Choosing an apartment is very important and many factors should be taken into consideration. Before choosing a place, be sure to inspect the apartment closely and check for any damages or repairs that need to be made. If you notice these damages after you have moved in there is no guarantee that the landlord will fix them for free for you. Also there are many things you should consider such as:
- any evidence of water damage on the ceilings
- any leaks on pipes or water facets
- are there smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors inside and outside the apartment
- if the water pressure is adequate and is the water warm enough
- ensure locks are sturdy and safe
- ensure the energy outlets are working
You can choose any apartment that falls within the specific limits set by your local Housing Agency. For example you cannot choose a large, luxurious apartment just so you can receive reduced rent costs. Also, you can also choose your current home to be used as your living place in this program, you do not necessarily have to choose a new living arrangement.
Many landlords will charge a deposit that you must pay in full as the Housing Agency does not help with the cost of any security deposits that are made.
The Section 8 Housing Voucher Program is a good program for single parents and families of low income. If you are of low income do not hesitate to apply. To begin the application process, get into contact with the Housing Agency nearest your location.