Section 8 Program Fact Sheet Questions & Answers

What Are Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers?

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to rent decent, safe and sanitary housing in the private market. Since the rental assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find and lease privately owned housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments. The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is limited to units located in subsidized housing projects.

Section 8 housing choice vouchers are administered locally by public and Indian housing agencies (HAs). The HAs receive Federal funds from HUD to administer the Section 8 programs. A family issued a housing choice voucher is responsible for finding and selecting a suitable rental unit of their choice, which may include their present unit. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by the HA. A rental subsidy is paid directly by the HA to the landlord on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.

Am I Eligible?

Eligibility for a housing choice voucher is determined by the HA based on the total annual gross income and family size, and is limited to U.S. citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status.

During the application process, the HA will collect information on family income, assets, and family composition. The HA will verify this information with other local agencies, your employer and bank, and will use the information to determine program eligibility and the amount of the rental assistance payment.

If the HA determines that your family is eligible, it will put your name on a waiting list, unless it is able to assist you immediately. Once your name is reached on the waiting list, the HA will contact you and issue to you a housing choice voucher.

How Do I Apply?

If you are interested in applying for rental assistance, you may apply online through this website when the waiting list is open.  You must have a printer attached to your computer in order to do this.  You may also use the computer in the lobby of our Chambersburg or Waynesboro offices to apply.

Federal Preferences And Waiting List - What Are They And How Do They Affect Me?

Since the demand for housing assistance often exceeds the limited resources available to HUD and the local housing agencies, long waiting periods are common. In fact, an HA may close its waiting list when it has more families on the list than can be assisted in the near future.

In selecting a family from its waiting list, the HA may give preference to a family who is (1) victim of domestic violence, (2) homeless, or (3) working preference which also includes elderly families or families whose head or spouse is receiving income based on their inability to work. Families who qualify for these preferences will move ahead of other families on the list who do not qualify for any preference.

Housing Choice Vouchers - How Do They Function?

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program places the choice of housing in the hands of the individual family. A very low-income family who has been selected by the HA to participate is encouraged to consider several housing choices to secure the best rental housing for its needs.

The rental unit must meet an acceptable level of health and safety before the HA can approve payments to landlords under the Housing Choice Voucher Program. When the housing choice voucher holder finds a unit that it wishes to occupy and reaches an agreement with the landlord over the lease terms, the HA must inspect the dwelling and review the lease for approval. A housing choice voucher holder is also advised of the unit size for which it is eligible, based on family size and composition, and the applicable rent levels.

In the Housing Choice Voucher Program, the HA determines a payment standard which is used to calculate the amount of rental assistance a family will receive, but does not affect the amount of rent a landlord may charge or the family may pay. A family may select a unit that rents below or above the payment standard, as long as the rent and utilities are within rent reasonableness. The family may pay more than 30% of its monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities if the unit rent is greater than the payment standard. However, the family would not be permitted to pay more than 40% of its monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities.

Note: If a family chooses to rent a unit with a gross rent (rent plus tenant paid utilities) below the payment standard, the gross rent will be used to calculate the housing assistance payment.

The HA calculates the maximum amount of rental assistance allowable, which is the difference between the payment standard and 30% of the family’s monthly adjusted gross income or the difference between the gross rent and 30% of the family’s monthly adjusted income, and pays rental assistance.

Can I Move And Continue To Receive Section 8 Rental Assistance?

A family’s housing needs change over time with changes in family size, job locations, and for other reasons. The Housing Choice Voucher Program is designed to allow families to move without the loss of rental assistance. Moves are permissible as long as the family notifies the HA ahead of time, terminates its existing lease within the appropriate provisions, and finds acceptable alternate housing.

A family that wishes to move to another HAs jurisdiction must consult with the HA to verify the procedures for moving and whether or not they participate in the Section 8 Rental Assistance Program.

Roles - The Tenant, The Landlord, The Housing Agency and HUD

Once an HA approves an eligible family’s lease and housing unit, the family and the landlord sign a lease, and at the same time, the landlord and the HA sign a Housing Assistance Contract which runs for the same term as the lease. This means that everyone—tenant, landlord and HA—has obligations and responsibilities within the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

Tenant’s Role: When a family selects a housing unit, and the HA approves the unit and lease, the family signs a lease with the landlord for at least one year. The tenant may be required to pay a security deposit to the landlord. After the first year, the landlord may initiate a new lease or allow the family to remain in the unit on a month-to-month lease. When the family is settled in a new home, the family is expected to comply with the lease and the program requirements, pay its share of rent on time, maintain the unit in good condition and notify the HA of any changes in income or family composition.

Landlord’s Role: The role of the landlord in the Housing Choice Voucher Program is to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing to a tenant at a reasonable rent. The dwelling unit must pass the program’s housing standards and be maintained up to those standards as long as the owner receives housing assistance payments. In addition, the landlord is expected to provide the services agreed to as part of the lease signed with the tenant and the contract signed with the HA.

Housing Authority’s Role: The HA administers the Housing Choice Voucher Program locally. The HA provides a family with the rental assistance that enables the family to seek out suitable housing, and the HA enters into a contract with the landlord to provide rental assistance payments on behalf of the family. If the landlord fails to meet his/her obligations under the lease, the HA has the right to terminate assistance payments.

HUD’s Role: To cover the cost of the program, HUD provides funds to allow HAs to make housing assistance payments on behalf of the families and HUD pays the HA a fee for the costs of administering the program. When additional funds become available to assist new families, HUD invites HAs to submit applications for funds for additional housing choice vouchers. Applications are then reviewed and funds awarded to the selected HAs on a competitive basis.