If your Section 8 application is approved, you generally have 90 days to find rental apartments that accept Section 8 vouchers and pass the safety and sanitary requirements. One way to find apartments and houses for rent by owner accepting Section 8 is online through the federal website.
You can find a Section 8 housing list for public and private units that cater to specific types of households or housing needs. For example, you can find lists of apartments specializing in the following areas:
- Extremely low income
- Special needs
The location tool shows Section 8 homes for rent nationwide, and you can check for units in your area. It specifies the number of units, number of bedrooms in the units, and if they are:
- Houses for rent by owner accepting Section 8 vouchers.
- Project-based assistance or public housing.
- Subsidized housing that costs about 30 percent of your adjusted income.
- Affordable housing through the Low-income Housing Tax Credit Program (LIHTC).
- Part of the Elderly Program.
- Part of the Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program.
Your state’s housing department may also have an online tool to help you find affordable housing.
A simple online search may also help you find Section 8 houses for rent in your area. If you need help locating or applying for Section 8 apartments, a PHA or local nonprofit organization might be able to help. You should notify HUD if a landlord breaks the Fair Housing Act by:
- Refusing to rent to you.
- Lying about housing availability.
- Setting different rental terms.
- Restricting rental possibilities to one area.
- Advertising for a preferred group.
- Refusing to let you make reasonable accommodations for a disability.
You can make a personal Section 8 housing list of the rentals that meet your household’s needs. You will need to apply to each property you like.
You can apply for Section 8 at each PHA that operates in the area where you live. Most states do not have one Section 8 application for the entire state, but an approved housing application may qualify you for enrollment in other programs.
The federal HUD website has contact information for each PHA office, so you can find the closest ones in your area. Some PHA offices may not accept your Section 8 housing application because the waiting list is closed. You can check with each PHA to determine if it is accepting applications or if it has a waiting list. The local PHA must advertise when waiting lists are open and when you can apply.
Similarly, agencies may only accept applications during certain times or on specific days, such as every day between three and five or only on Wednesdays.
Agencies may have different Section 8 housing application methods, such as:
- In person.
- By mail.
- By phone.
The low income housing application requires you to provide information about you and your household members, including everyone’s name, Social Security number, and age. You also need to provide the incomes of all adults in your household. Some states require all able-bodied adults to work or participate in job training to maintain eligibility.
You may need to provide birth certificates to establish citizenship. If you or anyone in your household is an immigrant, you typically need to show proof of lawful presence.
In addition to meeting the income, citizen, and immigration requirements, all adult members of your household must agree to a criminal background check. The information on your Section 8 application and the results of background checks determine if your household qualifies for housing assistance.
A Public Housing Authority waiting list occurs when there is a greater demand for housing assistance than resources. High housing costs in big cities, for instance, can disproportionately increase the need for financial assistance. You may find low income apartments with no waiting list in more rural areas or where there is less demand for aid.
You may need to wait for Section 8 openings to become available even if the PHA accepts your application. Being on an affordable housing waiting list at multiple local PHAs at the same time may help you receive benefits faster.
Your position on an open Section 8 waiting list can change with the acceptance of new applicants. For instance, PHAs must generally provide around 75 percent of resources for very low-income households, and the agency may prioritize someone who makes less money than you.
Likewise, households may jump you in line if they have members who are:
On the other hand, you may move up or down on the waiting list if your circumstances change. If your income decreases, the PHA may consider your need greater. You must update the PHA if changes occur to the household income or the number of family members.
You may need to find an open waiting list for affordable housing before applying for vouchers. Some PHAs stop taking applications when they have a long waiting list. Other agencies may require you to apply each year.
A PHA can have an open Section 8 waiting list for vouchers, but not for public housing. The Housing Choice Voucher Program tends to be more desirable since you can select where you will live instead of placement in a unit.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) created a Section 8 home buying program that lets participants use vouchers to pay a portion of their mortgage instead of rent. Or, the program permits approved applicants to accept a one-time grant for down payment assistance instead of a monthly subsidy.
The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Homeownership Program is only available if you already receive or qualify for Section 8 housing assistance and live in an area with a PHA that participates in this program. The HCV Homeownership Program is not available everywhere.
The requirements for each PHA homeownership program can vary slightly since median incomes are different throughout the country. However, there are nationwide criteria that you must generally meet.
You may be able to participate in this program if you meet one of the following criteria:
- You are a first-time homebuyer. The PHA considers you a first-time homebuyer if you have not owned property in the last three years.
- You attend and complete a housing counseling program. All adults in the household may need to complete counseling.
- You can pay at least a three percent down payment. Gifts and family contributions are permitted, but at least one percent must come from your immediate family’s resources.
- You make at least the minimum income. Any adults in your household must earn at least the federal minimum hourly wage multiplied by 2,000 hours. As of 2022, that minimum annual income is $14,500, with a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
If you qualify for the program, the total amount of your homeownership vouchers should be the same as the rental subsidy. You can use vouchers for housing expenses, including:
- The mortgage’s principal, interest, and insurance premium.
- Property taxes.
- Homeowners’ insurance.
- Homeowners Association (HOA) fees.
- Routine maintenance costs.
- Major home repairs and replacements.
Your household must follow program rules to continue to receive homeownership assistance. Section 8 Homeownership Program rules are similar to those outlined for renters, but may have additional conditions. For example, you may need to have flood insurance if you live in a flood zone.
The availability of Section 8 housing vouchers depends on the area’s resources and affordable housing needs. While Section 8 is a federal program and is available nationwide, the program operates locally through individual Public Housing Authorities (PHAs). There are a limited number of public Section 8 housing units and funds for voucher subsidies.
The Public Housing Authority (PHA) may establish a waiting list if there are more applicants than housing units and funding. Even if you qualify for housing vouchers, an approved application does not guarantee benefits.
In most cases, applicants join the Section 8 waiting list in order of approval. However, some applicants may go to the top of the list immediately.
One of the ways how to get Section 8 immediately is by being a prioritized individual or household. PHAs may prioritize households with members who meet one or more of the following criteria:
- Are 62 years of age or older
- Are homeless
- Are veterans
- Have a disability
- Have an extremely low income for the area
- Live in a shelter
The basic information you submit on your application helps PHA representatives determine if you qualify for priority placement. You should update the agency if your income or household changes, since having a lower income or gaining a family member could move you closer to the top of the list.
Most PHAs categorize income as:
- Extremely low if it is less than 30 percent of the local median.
- Very low if it is between 30 and 50 percent of the local median.
- Low if it is around 80 percent of the local median.
Unlike other social welfare programs that operate statewide, Section 8 operates in local communities through PHAs. Each PHA services only a specific area. You may apply at several PHAs to increase your chances of getting housing assistance.
The Section 8 program prioritizes rental assistance for disabled veterans, at-risk veterans, veterans experiencing homelessness, and veterans’ families. Homelessness is prevalent in the veteran community, and the government has multiple programs that aim to assist the veteran population.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) teamed up with HUD to create a special veterans Section 8 program (HUD-VASH) that combines housing vouchers with case management and supportive services. The supportive services aim to reduce the risk of becoming homeless again and acts as a safety net.
The program focuses on providing homeless veterans with affordable housing Section 8 vouchers that can pay for and provide the following:
- Health care
- Mental health treatment
- Substance use counseling
- Employment programs
The VA housing voucher is a rental subsidy for housing units in the private market. Public HUD VASH apartments and other types of public rental units do not currently exist.
There may be more veteran vouchers housing opportunities available than there are for other Section 8 recipients. In fact, some housing units may be exclusively available to veterans.
If you are a veteran who needs housing assistance, you can apply with your local PHA or contact a VA medical center. Or, you can call the 24/7 National Homeless Veteran Call Center.
If your application is approved, you generally have 120 days to find suitable housing that accepts these vouchers. HUD VASH apartments, houses, and other rentals must meet the program’s safety, security, and sanitary requirements. HUD-VASH rentals have an annual inspection for recertification.
If you want to know how much does Section 8 pay, the answer depends on multiple factors. In most cases, you’ll be responsible for paying between 30 and 40 percent of your monthly household income toward your rent.
The PHA calculates an amount that takes the following factors into consideration:
- The number of people in your household
- The number of eligible members in your household
- The amount of rent the landlord wants
- The local utility allowance
- The local payment standard, which is the maximum subsidy
- The amount of your total monthly income
The local utility allowance and payment standard help calculate your portion of the rent. Your utility allowance is based on the type of utility and number of bedrooms you have in your home, such as electric heat for a two-bedroom unit. The payment standard considers the area and number of bedrooms in a rental unit.
Typically, your rental portion is calculated based on your household’s income. Then, Section 8 pays the remaining balance. You can expect to pay roughly 30 percent of your household’s monthly adjusted income toward rent.
Here are some examples of how much does Section 8 pay landlords with a rent amount of $2,200 and an adjusted monthly income of:
- $500, the PHA’s portion is $1,700 and yours is $300.
- $1,000, the PHA’s portion is $1,200 and yours is $800.
- $1,500, the PHA’s portion is $700 and yours is $1,300.
The PHA may not let you rent a unit that costs you more than 40 percent of your income. Rentals that are significantly higher than the payment standard may be too expensive.
Section 8 housing income limits vary by location, as some states have higher or lower housing costs and household incomes compared to the national average. For instance, the median household income is $94,384 in Maryland, but it is $44,966 in Mississippi.
Section 8 also considers the local area median income (AMI), which varies by county. For example, the median household income is more than $45,000 in Davidson County, Tennessee. But the median income is about $30,000 in Decatur County, Tennessee, just 100 miles away.
HUD keeps an updated list of the low income housing income limits for every county in the country. The HUD income limit increases for each additional family member, so larger families can earn more and might still qualify for the program.
For example, you may not qualify if you earn $35,000 and live alone. But you may qualify with the same income if two or more people are in your household.
You can check the Section 8 housing income limits for your county and the number of household members to determine to which category your income belongs. Each county divides income limits into three categories:
- Low income, or 50 to 80 percent of the AMI.
- Very low income, or 30 to 50 percent of the AMI.
- Extra low income, or 15 to 30 percent of the AMI.
PHAs spend about 75 percent of resources on households with an extra low income. You may be more likely to receive housing vouchers sooner if you have a household income of less than 30 percent of the county’s AMI.
The local PHA may deny your application if you do not meet the program’s requirements. Some Section 8 housing disqualifications include:
- Not being in the country legally.
- Making too much money for your household size and area.
- Having too much in assets, such as more than $5,000 in the bank.
- Committing certain drug-related and violent crimes in the last three years.
- Registering as a lifetime sex offender in any state.
- Being convicted of drug-related criminal activity in federally assisted housing within the last three or five years.
- Being evicted from the Section 8 housing program in the last five years.
- Threatening or committing violence against a PHA or representative.
- Owing money to the Section 8 program.
However, the PHA may consider other factors even if you fit one of the above descriptions. For instance, Section 8 representatives may overlook past convictions if they have been dismissed or expunged, if you have completed a drug treatment program, or if you have made other positive changes since your convictions.
Likewise, you may ask the PHA to make special considerations if your criminal history is related to a mental or physical disability.
You could also lose Section 8 housing assistance if you and your household break the program’s or your landlord’s rules. Some actions that could cause you to lose Section 8 housing vouchers include:
- Breaking your lease.
- Not reporting damage to the unit.
- Not reporting household and income changes.
- Having guests for a long period.
- Smoking and drug use.
- Disturbing or harming your neighbors.
Section 8 housing disqualifications can be temporary or permanent. For instance, you may lose eligibility for 24 months for letting an ineligible person live with you. You can appeal if the PHA denied your application or took away your benefits. Appeals should generally be within 30 days of the decision.
In many states, the requirements to qualify for Section 8 housing are the same as other government assistance programs. Your state may have a single application for all benefit programs, or your acceptance into one program could automatically enroll you in others.
The following are other programs that might have similar eligibility requirements:
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), otherwise known as food stamps, provides financial assistance for food. You can use the SNAP electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card to purchase almost anything with a Nutrition Facts label.
- Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is part of SNAP, but it focuses on pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women and children younger than five. WIC subsidies, however, are in “food packages” specific to your or your child’s needs. For instance, you may use your benefits for formula if you have an infant or juice if you have a toddler.
- School meal programs, like:
- The National School Lunch Program provides free or low-cost mid-day meals to school children.
- The School Breakfast Program provides free or low-cost morning meals to school children.
- The Summer Food Service Program provides free or low-cost meals to school-aged children when school is not in session.
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a cash assistance program that lets you use funds on basics, like rent, food, and clothing.
- Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are government-sponsored health insurance providers that reduce your medical expenses with free or low-cost premiums, copayments, and deductibles.
Welfare programs intend to help families become financially self-sufficient. A combination of support, like cash, food, and health insurance, may help push your household in that direction.
All the members of your household must have U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration statuses to qualify for Section 8 assistance. For the Section 8 program, a “mixed family” is one where some family members qualify and others do not. You may get a prorated assistance amount if you meet all the other qualifications but are part of a mixed family.
A prorated amount is only a portion of the full subsidy amount your household would receive if all family members qualify. For example, if only three out of four members are citizens or have eligible immigration status, your household may receive a prorated amount of 75 percent. So, your household would receive $300 if your total housing assistance payment is otherwise $400.
At least one member of your household must be a citizen, national, or qualified non-citizen. The PHA will not accept your application if all household members are non qualified immigrants.
However, you and your family members may still qualify if at least one person is:
- A lawful non-citizen admitted for permanent residence.
- A lawful non-citizen admitted for temporary or permanent residence under amnesty.
- A lawful immigrant who entered the country before January 1972 and continuously maintained U.S. residence but is not eligible for citizenship.
- A lawful non-citizen with refugee or asylum status (for specific reasons).
If you or a family member is a non-citizen, you may need to present documents regarding your immigration status. Immigration documentation cannot be older than 60 days from the date the PHA issues you vouchers. All non-citizens of your household must sign an authorization to release immigration, income, and financial information.
There aren’t any Section 8 moving rules that prevent you from relocating while you’re on a waiting list. Temporarily moving in with family may be the best option if you face losing your home. It can take months to years to reach the top of a waiting list.
You should update the PHA with your new address so you do not miss important notifications. If the PHA gives you housing vouchers, you have 90 days to find a new rental. You may need to find a rental in the jurisdiction of the PHA that gives you vouchers for at least the first year.
If you receive housing vouchers, the PHA is giving you tenant-based assistance. You can use the subsidy for a rental unit of your choice that accepts Section 8 and meets the state’s safety and sanitary requirements.
You can move at the end of your lease and use the vouchers for a different rental as long as you still qualify for benefits, including a different town or county. The PHA attaches the benefits to you – the individual – instead of the rental unit, so they follow you wherever you go.
Section 8 moving rules state you cannot leave before the end of your lease unless the landlord agrees or other circumstances beyond your control force you out of the unit, such as a natural disaster. Plus, the PHA may stop your housing vouchers if you move because the landlord evicted you.
If you already receive Section 8, transfer to another state is possible. However, it is a lengthy process. Your new state may automatically qualify your household, or you may need to submit a new application. It depends on the state.
Project-based assistance is public housing that the government owns, manages, and rents for a low rate. Instead of paying a landlord a portion of your rent, the PHA gives you lower rent for the unit. Low-cost rent does not follow you out of public housing.
Section 8 is a federal rental assistance program run by local governments. States may provide additional rental relief opportunities at their discretion.
Counties, cities, and towns may run separate programs to help with rent regularly or after emergencies. For example, several local governments provided emergency housing assistance during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Likewise, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program was part of the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. For this program, you apply through your state’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program if you want to receive housing assistance.
Nonprofits, religious organizations, and other entities may provide rental assistance to members of their community. Some popular populations that charities target include:
- Disabled individuals.
- Homeless youths.
- Occupations, like first responders and service workers.
- Families with young children.
- Individuals living with AIDS/HIV.
Volunteers of America offers housing assistance along with various other services. The organization has hundreds of rental properties nationwide for low- to moderate-income households.
Catholic Charities USA is a religious-based organization with resources for emergency and ongoing housing. It has thousands of affordable housing units for vulnerable populations. There are agencies in all 50 states that strive to reduce and prevent poverty as well as affordable housing shortages.
However, not all rental relief programs provide money or reduce monthly rates. Some organizations provide interest-free loans to help during a temporary crisis, such as losing your job or experiencing a medical emergency.
If you apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), you can use benefits to help pay housing costs. TANF is a cash assistance program that issues funds to pay for your household’s basics, including rent or a mortgage.
A Public Housing Agency typically allows households with elderly and disabled family members to have higher incomes. Seniors and disabled individuals, particularly veterans with service-related disabilities, usually have priority over other applicants. There are special HUD elderly and disabled housing communities to support independent living.
The Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities provides rental assistance for disabled applicants in the following ways:
- The government gives developers tax breaks to create low income housing for disabled tenants who need accommodations that are accessible with their disability.
- The government subsidies Section 8 disability apartments to house and support disabled tenants, including providing appropriate services.
For emergency housing assistance for disabled individuals, the Non-Elderly Disabled (NED) Voucher helps qualified applicants rent a home of their choice. The disabled family member may be a spouse or another adult, but households with able-bodied parents and disabled children do not qualify for NED vouchers.
In addition to special HUD housing for disabled residents, many communities are exclusively for seniors. The Section 2020 Supportive Housing for the Elderly operates similarly to Section 811 but focuses on low-income renters older than 62 years of age. The units in these low income apartments for seniors accommodate seniors’ needs and physical challenges and may:
- Be wheelchair accessible.
- Have shower and bathroom rails.
- Higher toilet seats.
- Be single story (no stairs).
- Have slip-resistant flooring.
You can also find a rental community for senior living that accepts Section 8 if you want to live in an area with similarly aged neighbors. Senior apartments that accept Section 8 often have activities and group events, such as shuffleboards and bingo nights.
Housing vouchers can help cover the cost of assisted living facilities. The adult care home must have state licensing or follow state regulations. Section 8 assisted living homes may have supportive services to help with bathing, dressing, eating, and other basic tasks.
You can check your Section 8 waiting list status by calling the local PHA that qualifies you for benefits. A representative may be able to tell you if you are moving up or down on the list every couple of months.
Many states have a Section 8 waiting list check website. Several areas use waitlistcheck.com. You may need to create an account to check Section 8 status updates, depending on how you applied for benefits.
- If you applied online and received a login prompt, the same username and password may be the same.
- If you applied online and did not receive an account prompt, your username is your birth year and your password is the last four digits of your Social Security number.
- If you applied online and received a password on your application receipt, the number will be your password and your username is the year you were born.
- If you applied by other means and the PHA sent a password, use it with the year of your birth as the username.
- If you applied by other means and did not receive any numbers, create an account using your birth year as the username and the last four digits of your Social Security number as the password.
The birth year and Social Security number you need to provide should belong to the first person on the Section 8 housing application.
A housing waiting list check may also tell you if you can submit a request for housing assistance. You can check the waiting list status for Section 8 to see if a PHA is no longer accepting applications because the waiting list is so long.