Section 8 or Housing Choice Vouchers Program arranges for affordable housing for low-income citizens of the U.S., including the disabled and the elderly. The assistance comes in the form of subsidized monthly rental fee in any apartment located in the United States. It is a primary program of the Federal Government. The residences are privately owned.
Who is eligible for the program?
All the required information about the eligibility of both the tenant and the landlord can be determined from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Eligibility for the Section 8 voucher program takes into account:
- Gross total income: It should be less than 50% of the median income of the county or metropolitan area
- Family size
- Citizenship (restricted to U.S. Citizens and certain non U.S. citizens who have qualified for immigrant status)
The PHA reserves 75% vouchers area wise for those families whose incomes are not more than 30% of the median income for the area.
Who is the governing authority?
The Housing Choice Vouchers Program is administered by the public housing agencies in each municipality. It ensures that the residences and tenants meet the qualifying criterion.
How does it work?
The subsidy provided by the local municipal public housing agency has a correlation with the fair market rent in that area. It is calculated as the difference between 30% of the household income and PHA-defined payment standard which is equivalent to 80 to 100% of the fair market rent. This amount is paid to the landlord.
As a tenant if I choose a residence where the rental is higher than the fair market rent, then I have to pay the difference. If the rental is lower than the fair market rent, I can keep the difference.
The monthly rental must be at par with the unsubsidized rentals in the neighborhood.
What is the adjusted income of the tenant?
It is 10% of the gross income of the tenant or that part of welfare assistance set aside for housing.
How does the PHA certify the apartment?
It is extremely important that the housing unit which wants to enlist for the Section 8 voucher program meets the HUD quality standards.
The process starts with the identification of the household that meet the income criterion. The voucher is then sent by the public housing agency to the income-qualified tenant who then has to identify the resident they want to rent. The PHA will pay the landlord only if the residence meets the quality standards laid out in the program.
What is the maximum allowance for each eligible tenant?
The maximum allowance is calculated as the lesser of:
- Payment standard less 30% of the tenant’s monthly adjusted income OR
- Gross rent payable less 30% of the tenant’s monthly adjusted income
What are the responsibilities of the tenant?
- A one-year lease has to be entered into with the landlord by the approved tenant. The tenant has to pay a security deposit and pay rent timely
- The unit should be well maintained
- The PHA should be informed if there is any change in income
It is important for both the tenant and the landlord to study the qualifying criteria detailed by the Department of Housing and Urban Developing before applying for the Housing Choice Voucher or getting the property listed.