Senior’s Guide to Section 8
We are privately owned and not affiliated with the government in any way or form. Our team of writers have researched Section 8 Housing Program to create this guide to assist consumers.
Senior’s Guide to Section 8
Section 8 Housing
Section 8, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, is a rental assistance program funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Through this program, beneficiaries receive a voucher that reduces the cost of rent. HUD uses the voucher to pay the landlord directly, covering most of the rental cost. The beneficiary is responsible for paying the remaining amount of the rent.
The Section 8 program includes two main types of assistance:
- Tenant-based assistance, which allows a household to find and choose their own unit. This type of assistance stays with the family, meaning a household can move somewhere else and continue receiving a rent subsidy.
- Project-based assistance, which allows a household to receive rental assistance only if they live in a certain unit. Rent assistance is tied to the unit, not the family. This means you lose assistance if you move out of the unit.
Since project-based and tenant-based vouchers are both part of Section 8, they have the same eligibility requirements and program rules, except for the differences discussed below:
- Individuals must look for their own units
- Individuals can keep the vouchers when they move out of the unit
- Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) refer families to eligible unitssnapo
- Individuals lose their vouchers when they move out of the unit
Learn more about Section 8 housing, including who qualifies and how to apply, in the sections below.
Seniors and Section 8 Housing
Seniors make up one of the largest categories of Section 8-eligible individuals. Through this program, seniors can receive housing vouchers to help pay a portion of their rental costs. They also have the option of living in a senior housing facility, which is a living facility solely occupied by senior residents who need assistance performing basic daily tasks to live independently, that accepts Section 8.
Although the Section 8 program is operated by individual public housing authorities (PHAs), most give priority to elderly applicants. Seniors are often placed toward the top of the program waiting list. Disabled seniors often receive even higher priority due to their added complex housing needs. For more information about this program, refer to the sections below.
Section 8 Contact Information Directory
National Customer Service Center
The Section 8 National Customer Service Center is open weekdays from 9 PM to 5 PM EST. Please be ready with your name, email address, phone number and question before you call.
Section 8 National Customer Service Center: 800-955-2232
State Contact Information
The following list provides links to contact information for all PHAs in your state, as well as state-specific resources for more information and resources like:
- Subsidized housing locations
- Links to your state’s PHA websites
- Housing counseling agencies near you
- Utility bill assistance
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/alabama/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/alaska/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/arizona/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/arkansas/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/colorado/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/delaware/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/florida/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/georgia/renting
More Info: https://www.ghura.org/contact-info
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/hawaii/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/idaho/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/illinois/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/indiana/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/iowa/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/kansas/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/kentucky/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/louisiana/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/maine/renting
More Info: http://www.nmhcgov.net
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/maryland/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/michigan/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/missouri/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/montana/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/nebraska/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/nevada/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/new_york/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/ohio/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/oklahoma/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/oregon/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/tennessee/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/texas/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/utah/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/vermont/renting
U.S. Virgin Islands
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/virginia/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/wisconsin/renting
More Info: https://www.hud.gov/states/wyoming/renting
General Section 8 Eligibility for Seniors
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) determines many of the eligibility criteria for Section 8. However, public housing authorities (PHAs) may have additional requirements.
Depending on the PHA you apply through, your eligibility for vouchers may be based on the following factors.
Social Security Number (SSN)
To receive a Section 8 voucher, at least one person in your household must have a Social Security Number (SSN). You can still receive Section 8 vouchers even if some household members do not have SSNs, but the amount of assistance you receive will be prorated. In other words, you will not receive the full voucher amount.
Household Family Status
HUD divides “family” into two categories:
- A single person
- A group of people living together in the same household
Within these two family categories, HUD defines the following types of families:
- An elderly family has a head-of-household, co-head or spouse who is 62 years of age or older.
- A near-elderly family has a head-of-household, co-head or spouse who is between 50 and 62 years of age.
- A disabled family has a head-of-household, co-head or spouse who is disabled with a physical, mental or emotional impairment.
- A displaced family is a household where each member of the family is involuntarily displaced from home due to:
- Government action
- A formally declared natural disaster that causes extensive damage to the family’s home
PHAs will check your criminal history when you apply to the program. You may be denied assistance if any of the following are true:
- Someone in your household is registered as a lifetime sex offender in any state. Someone in your household has engaged in criminal activity, including illegal drug-related activity.
- Someone in your family has a pattern of alcohol abuse that could threaten the peace or safety of household members or neighbors.
To identify these individuals, PHAs will consider any drug or alcohol-related arrests and convictions that occurred within at least the past three years.
In some cases, a PHA may require you to wait for a reasonable period of time before you can be admitted to the voucher program after a criminal offense.
If your drug or alcohol-related activity affects your eligibility, housing authorities might allow you to apply for assistance after completing a treatment or rehabilitation program.
You do not need to be a resident of the state where you are applying for assistance, but some PHAs may have local residency preferences. This means that they can prioritize applicants who live in a certain area, including the PHA’s local area.
To qualify for Section 8, you must be considered “very low income” according to the state Section 8 income limit. This means that your income cannot be more than 50 percent of the median income in the area where you choose to live.
Median incomes vary depending on location, so different areas have different Section 8 income limits.
Even if your family is not considered to have “very low income,” you can still apply for Section 8, as PHAs may give housing vouchers to low-income or even moderate-income families in certain situations.
Section 8 Income Limits
Income limits vary by area. There are two simple ways to find Section 8 income limits for a given area:
Option 1: You can access a PDF with all income limits for 2020 by clicking on this link or typing the URL into your browser’s address bar: https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/il/il20/Section8-IncomeLimits-FY20.pdf
Option 2: You can search for an area’s current income limit by following these steps:
- Visit the following URL: https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/il.html
- For 2020 income limits, click the button that says, “Click Here for FY 2020 IL Documentation.”
- Select your state from the list. A county list will appear to the right.
- Click the county whose income limits you want to check.
- Finally, click “View Calculations” to see income limits for the selected area.
Your results will show the limits for families who earn 30 percent (extremely low income), 50 percent (very low income) or 80 percent (low income) of the area’s median income.
Make sure to look at the income limits based on your family’s size.
How to Apply for Section 8
Since Section 8 is administered locally, there is no national application for Section 8 housing vouchers. Each PHA has its own application methods and procedures. You can usually apply in one of the following ways:
- In person
- By phone
- By mail or fax
You must apply through a PHA that has an open waiting list. Learn more about the Section 8 waiting lists in the following section.
First, PHAs will have you start by filling out a preliminary application (also called a “pre-application”) with basic information like:
- Your address
- Family size
- Date and time of application
- Racial or ethnic designation of the head of household
- Estimate of annual income
This pre-application is used to determine your initial eligibility. After completing this step in the process, you may be placed on a waiting list or denied Section 8 benefits.
What is the waiting list?
If you are eligible for Section 8, you will likely get placed on a waiting list after you submit your preliminary application. This is a list of eligible applicants within the PHA’s jurisdiction.
PHAs can organize the waiting list to place certain applicants at the top of the list.
As a senior applicant, you will commonly receive priority over other younger applicants. This is known as local preference, a factor that can affect how quickly you get assistance.
PHAs may assign preferences to groups of people (like seniors) who may have a greater need for affordable housing, such as:
- Disabled applicants
- Displaced applicants
- Victims of domestic violence
- Homeless applicants
- Applicants who are currently living in substandard housing
- Local residents
The exact preferences vary by each individual housing authority. Some PHAs do not have any local preferences.
PHAs make public announcements whenever a waiting list opens. They are required to publish waiting list openings in popular newspapers. If your preferred PHA has a closed waiting list, you may apply for assistance at any other PHA. You can even apply to multiple PHAs at the same time.
Information and Documents Needed to Apply
When you apply for Section 8, you will need to provide detailed information about your household. Each PHA may have its own requirements for filling out a Section 8 application.
Unlike the pre-application discussed in the section above, you will need to complete a full application with the PHA when your name is selected from the waiting list. In general, full applications usually ask for:
- Detailed information about your family’s income, including sources of income and how often you are paid
- A list of checking and savings accounts for all household members
- Information about dependents, elderly family members, disabled family members, etc.
- Estimates of disability, childcare and medical expenses
- Information about previous evictions from federally assisted housing
- Names and addresses of previous landlords
- Information about any past drug- or alcohol-related arrests
- A self-certification about the accuracy of the information the applicant has provided
Additional HUD Assistance
In addition to Section 8, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has several other assistance programs and services designed to help seniors across the country. Continue reading the sections below for more information about additional HUD assistance.
HUD sponsors Housing Counseling Agencies throughout the U.S. These agencies provide the following housing-related services:
- Foreclosure prevention counseling
- Homeless counseling services
- Advice on renting or buying a home
- Pre-purchase education and advice
- Reverse mortgage advice
Who can get housing counseling services?
Anyone interested in receiving the services listed above can speak to a housing counselor. There are no eligibility requirements. However, it is important to be aware that some Housing Counseling Agencies may not provide all the services listed, and some may charge fees for certain types of assistance. Continue reading the section below to learn about housing counseling fees.
Are there fees for housing counseling services?
HUD-approved Housing Counseling Agencies cannot charge fees for the following services:
- Foreclosure prevention counseling
- Homeless counseling services
However, agencies can charge reasonable fees for all other types of housing counseling services as long as the following conditions are met:
- Agencies must inform clients of the fee structure before providing any services
- Agencies cannot charge recipients who demonstrate they cannot afford the fees
- Fees must be appropriate for services provided
How to Find a Housing Counselor
If you are on the brink of foreclosure and need advice, you may speak to a foreclosure avoidance counselor. The counselor can help you understand your options, such as whether you qualify for loan modification or refinance. To find a foreclosure avoidance counselor, use the search tool provided by HUD to locate one in your area: https://apps.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/fc/.
For any other housing counseling services, find a Housing Counseling Agency near you. Use the search tool provided by HUD to search for agencies in your state: https://apps.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hcs.cfm.
Or, call HUD’s interactive voice system at (800) 569-4287.
HUD Homes for Purchase
If you are in the market for a new home, HUD can help you find one below market value. HUD homes are properties that were originally financed with an FHA loan and have gone into foreclosure. This means the previous owner could no longer pay the loan, so HUD put it up for sale.
Since HUD insures the FHA mortgage that financed the property, HUD becomes the property owner after foreclosure. HUD starts the bidding on these homes well under market value in an attempt to sell them as quickly as possible to recover some of its losses.
Because of this, however, HUD homes are not available for very long. If you are interested in purchasing a HUD home, you must consistently check the HUD website to browse listings as soon as they appear.
Who can purchase a HUD home?
Anyone who qualifies for a loan or who has the funds can purchase a HUD home. Some HUD homes may only be available to certain types of individuals, which are categorized into the following types of buyers:
- Owner-occupant – a buyer who plans to purchase and live in the home for at least one year and has not purchased a HUD home in the previous 24 months
- Investor – a buyer who purchases the home but is not the one living in it. Investors must wait 30 days to bid on a HUD home to allow owner-occupants priority bidding
- Good Neighbor Next Door – a buyer who participates in this government program (law enforcement officers, firefighters, teachers and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who move into a revitalization area)
- Learn more about the program here: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/housing/sfh/reo/goodn/gnndabot
- Government agency
- Dollar homes – local governments can purchase homes that have been on the market for more than six months for $1 each with the purpose of revitalizing them
How to Find HUD Homes
You can use the HUD search tool to find homes for sale. Access it here: https://www.hudhomestore.com/Home/Index.aspx
The tool allows you to search for homes in any state, county, city or town. Simply enter your desired area in the box or use the interactive map to search within a specific state. The tool lets you narrow down results using the following filters:
- Number of bedrooms
- Number of bathrooms
- Buyer type
How to Bid on a HUD Home
When you find a HUD home you wish to purchase, you must contact a HUD-approved real estate broker to submit a bid on your behalf. A bid is an offer you make at or above the home’s listing price. Only brokers who are licensed to bid on HUD homes may do this; you cannot place a bid yourself.
Use the HUD search tool here to find a registered broker in your area: https://www.hudhomestore.com/Listing/BrokerSearch.aspx. The broker will be your primary contact and will:
- Notify you if your offer is accepted
- Submit sale documents
The bidding process for every HUD home begins with a 30-day period for owner-occupants only. This allows them to have priority in bidding for homes. Once the owner-occupant period ends, the home is available to all types of buyers.
How can I pay for a HUD home?
You can purchase a HUD home using the following financing options:
- FHA loan
- This type of loan is insured by the federal government, which means mortgage lenders (companies or individuals that provide funds for the purchase) are not responsible if you stop paying your loan. FHA loans are known for low down payments and lower credit requirements.
- FHA 203k (rehabilitation) loan
- If the home is in need of repairs or modifications, you can add the cost of repairs into the loan.
- Conventional (traditional) loan
- Conventional loans are not insured by the federal government, so mortgage lenders would be responsible for covering the loss if you stop paying. Therefore, these loans tend to have more strict credit requirements and require a larger down payment to reduce the lender’s risk.
Seniors who are experiencing or affected by homelessness, or maybe at risk of being homeless, can access a variety of homeless assistance programs. HUD administers these programs in states and local communities throughout the U.S.
Continue reading the sections below to learn about how the following homeless assistance programs can help seniors affected by homelessness:
- Continuum of Care (CoC)
- Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA)
- Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) Program
Individuals cannot apply to these programs. Instead, non-profit, state and local government organizations apply in order to provide assistance to individuals in a given area.
Continuum of Care (CoC)
The Continuum of Care (CoC) program promotes a community-wide commitment to the goal of ending homelessness. Through this program, non-profit organizations, states and local government bodies can receive funding to provide housing to homeless individuals and families.
CoC also helps homeless individuals and families access homelessness assistance programs in their local communities. Organizations and agencies must apply with HUD to be a part of the CoC program and receive funding.
Once approved, they can use the funds to support projects in any of the following categories:
- Permanent housing
- Community-based housing without a designated length of stay
- Transitional housing
- Temporary living arrangements for homeless individuals and families with the goal of moving onto permanent housing
- Supportive services
- Outreach (including street-based outreach), resources and ongoing support for homeless individuals or individuals living in shelters
- Homeless Management Intervention System (HMIS)
- Funds used under this component may only be secured by HMIS leads, which are organizations that utilize and oversee this information technology system. HMIS is used to collect client data as well as data about housing and services available to homeless individuals in a specific area
- Homelessness Prevention
- Organizations located in some areas may use CoC funds to support housing relocation and stabilization services, as well as short- and medium-term rental assistance for homeless individuals
Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA)
The Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program is the only federally funded program that specifically provides housing assistance to individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Through this program, HUD issues grants to local communities, states and nonprofit organizations for projects that benefit low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS and their families.
Most of the HOPWA funds are issued to cities and metropolitan areas with a high number of HIV/AIDS cases. These areas can use HOPWA funds to provide the following benefits to Individuals living with HIV/AIDS who are affected by homelessness:
- Building, acquiring or rehabilitating housing units
- Paying for newer or better facility operations
- Providing rental assistance
- Providing short-term payments to individuals at risk of homelessness
Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG)
The Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) program, formerly known as the Emergency Shelter Grants Program, provides emergency assistance to individuals so they may quickly regain stability in permanent housing after experiencing a housing crisis and/or homelessness. The shift in program names reflects the clarified goal of helping individuals maintain stable housing rather than solely helping them find shelter.
Non-profit, state and local organizations can use ESG funding to complete the following tasks:
- Reach out to and engage with homeless individuals and families living on the street
- Improve the number and quality of emergency shelters in the community
- Help operate these shelters
- Provide essential services to shelter residents
- Rapidly re-house homeless individuals and families
- Prevent families and individuals from becoming homeless
Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly
Section 202, otherwise known as Supportive Housing for the Elderly, is a program that helps facilitate the creation of multi-family housing for very low-income elderly individuals. Through this program, HUD provides financial incentives to private, nonprofit sponsors to finance the development of this housing.
Section 202 occupancy is available to very low-income households with at least one member who is 62 years of age or older. It provides elderly individuals the opportunity to live independently in an environment that provides support activities, such as cleaning, cooking and transportation. The goal of the program is to expand supportive housing capacities so that more elderly residents have access to this opportunity.
Housing Assistance for Senior Veterans
Senior veterans who are in need of housing assistance are eligible for a variety of public assistance programs specifically designed for veterans. Continue reading the sections below to learn more about the following veteran-specific housing benefits and programs:
- Homeless Assistance
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program helps senior veterans find and maintain permanent housing. It is a collaborative program that combines HUD housing vouchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) supportive services to help homeless veterans find and sustain housing.
Eligible veterans can receive rental assistance housing vouchers to find affordable housing. At the same time, these veterans can be connected to a variety of support services, including:
- Health care
- Mental health treatment services
- Substance abuse counseling
HUD-VASH Contact Information Directory
To be connected with a Homeless Program at your nearest VA facility, call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1 (877) 424-3838.
Or, visit your local Community Resource and Referral Center (CRRC). The chart below lists all CRRCs in the U.S.
|West Haven||114-52 Boston Post RoadWest Haven, CT 06516|
|Harlem||55 West 125th St. (11th floor)New York, NY 10027|
|Philadelphia||213 N 4th St., 2nd FloorPhiladelphia, PA 19106|
|Baltimore||209 W. Fayette St.Baltimore, MD 21201|
|Washington, DC||1500 Franklin St NEWashington, DC 20018|
|Huntington||624 9th St. Huntington, WV 25701|
|Charleston||2424 City Hall Lane North Charleston, SC 29445|
|Atlanta||1701 Hardee Ave. SW Atlanta, GA 30310|
|Jacksonville||606 W. Beaver Street Jacksonville, FL 32202|
|Akron||111 E. Voris St. Akron, OH 44311|
|Cleveland||7000 Euclid Ave. Suite 202 Cleveland, OH 44103|
|Detroit||301 Piquette St. Detroit, MI 48201|
|Chicago||1141 South California Ave. Chicago, IL 60612|
|Milwaukee||1818 North Martin Luther King Drive Milwaukee, WI 53212|
|Houston||1418 Preston Houston, TX 77030|
|New Orleans||1530 Gravier St. New Orleans, LA 70112|
|Dallas||4500 S. Lancaster, Building 71aDallas, TX 75216|
|Fort Worth||1518 E. Lancaster Ave., Suite A Fort Worth, TX 76102|
|Denver||3836 N. York St. Denver, CO 80205|
|Portland||308 SW 1st Ave., Suite 155Portland, OR 97204|
|Seattle||305 S. Lucile St.Seattle, WA 98108|
|Las Vegas||4461 East Charleston BlvdLas Vegas, NV 89104|
|San Francisco||401 3rd St. (at Harrison) San Francisco, CA 94107|
|Long Beach||888 W. Santa Ana Blvd., Suite 150 Santa Ana, CA 92701|
|Phoenix||1500 East Thomas Rd., Suite 106Phoenix, AZ 85014|
|Los Angeles||The Welcome Center11301 Wilshire Blvd Bldg. 257 Los Angeles, CA 70073|
|Cedar Rapids||1535 1st Ave., SECedar Rapids, IA 52403|
|Davenport||415 North Perry St. Davenport, IA 52801|
|Des Moines||223 Center Street Suite 17 Des Moines, IA 50309|
|Minneapolis||1201 Harmon Place Minneapolis, MN 55403|
|Omaha||825 Dorcas St., Suite 200 Omaha, NE 68108|
Eligibility for HUD-VASH
To participate in HUD-VASH, individuals must meet the following requirements:
- Be eligible for VA health care
- Meet the definition of homeless as defined in the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which is:
- An individual or family lacking a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence;
- An individual or family with a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, such as a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, airport or campground;
- An individual or family living in a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designated to provide temporary living arrangements (including hotels and motels paid for by federal, state, or local government programs for low-income individuals or by charitable organizations, congregate shelters, and transitional housing);
- An individual who resided in a shelter or place not meant for human habitation and who is exiting an institution where he or she temporarily resided; or
- An individual or family who is about to lose their housing, including housing they own, rent or live in without paying rent, are sharing with others and rooms in hotels or motels not paid for by federal, state, or local government programs for low-income individuals or by charitable organizations.
How to Apply for HUD-VASH
To apply for HUD-VASH, visit your local VA Medical Center. Use the search tool here to find one in your area: https://www.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp?isflash=1
HUD Exchange Homeless Assistance
The HUD Exchange is an online platform that provides resources, information and guidance to community organizations that partner with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Since HUD administers a variety of housing assistance programs throughout the U.S., this online platform makes it easy for local agencies to access vital information to keep their programs running.
HUD provides many homeless assistance programs, some of which are geared toward helping veterans find and maintain suitable, permanent housing. The HUD Exchange has information and resources for anyone experiencing homelessness or who may be at risk of being homeless.