How Does Section 8 Housing Work?


The U.S. Housing Act of 1937 was the beginning of federal housing assistance for low-income Americans. Funds were provided to real estate developers to build high-quality public housing for eligible low-income tenants. This federal program allowed for local housing authorities to manage and maintain these properties.

The Section 23 Leased Housing Program amendment was added to the Housing Act in 1961. This amendment allowed eligible low-income tenants to be placed in private properties. The private property owners would lease their properties through their local housing authority. Rents were set at open market prices. Part of the rent was paid by the tenant, and the rest of the rent was paid by the housing authorities through federal funds. The housing authorities would maintain and manage these private properties. This formed the foundation for Section 8 housing.

What is Section 8 Housing?

Section 8 is an amendment that was added to the Housing Act in 1974. The primary difference between Section 8 and Section 23 was that Section 8 focused on helping renters who were spending a large percentage of their income on housing. These renters would pay 30 percent of their monthly income on rent. They will receive a voucher that would pay the remaining portion of their rent.

Renters can live wherever they want. The rental unit they choose will be inspected and must meet the acceptable health and safety standards set by the local housing authority. The rent must also be within the acceptable open market price. Renters can move anywhere and at any time within the jurisdiction of their local housing authority and still receive the Section 8 voucher. Renters can move anywhere in the U.S. that is outside the jurisdiction where they originally receive Section 8 assistance. They will need to contact their local housing authority and receive instructions on what to do before they make the move.

How do Landlords Qualify for Section 8 Housing?

The first step a landlord should take is to check their responsibilities under the laws in their state as it pertains to Section 8 tenants. Some states require landlords to accept all Section 8 tenants. Other states allow landlords to make their own choice if they want to accept Section 8 tenants. Landlords must follow the landlord-tenant laws of their state. They must also follow additional rules that are established under Section 8.

The landlord must apply to have their property approved to be leased to Section 8 tenants. The property is required to undergo and pass a Housing Quality Inspection by meeting minimum housing standards based on the guidelines established by HUD and the local housing authority. The property must pass an annual inspection to remain as a qualified Section 8 property. If the property fails any inspections, then the landlord must repair the property and bring it up to Section 8 standards within a certain amount of time.

How Does Section 8 Work for Tenants?

Individuals and families must qualify to receive Section 8 vouchers. There are four requirements to receive Section 8 vouchers. These are:

  • Family status – There is a lot of flexibility in determining what is a family. Individuals living alone can be defined as a family under certain circumstances.
  • Citizenship – Section 8 tenants must be American citizens or have legal immigration status.
  • Eviction history – Section 8 applicants can be denied if they were evicted from a property due to illegal drug activity.
  • Income – A section 8 applicant’s income cannot exceed 80 percent of their area’s median household income. For example, if their area’s median income is $50,000, then a family’s income cannot exceed $40,000.

Tenants who qualify can have a portion of their monthly rent paid. For instance, if a tenant has a monthly income of $2,000, then the tenant will pay 30 percent of their monthly income for rent. If their rent is $1,000 a month, then the tenant will pay $600, and Section 8 will pay the remaining $400. Rents are on the rise everywhere. There is a long waiting list of applicants waiting to receive Section 8 vouchers. Future applicants are advised to apply for Section 8 as soon as possible.