What Is Section 8 Housing?

Section 8, or the Housing Choice Voucher Program is something that mystifies some and frustrates others. What it is, is a federal program that provides housing for those with low income, but also the disabled and elderly.

Essentially what the program does is help to provide help for those groups that qualify by paying the rent on apartments or homes. These properties can be anywhere, and so, it’s not just limited to the various subsidized housing projects. In the markets where you find it, it’s administered locally, by public housing agencies. This makes it easier for those agencies to be sure that the tenants and residences that participate are properly certified.

It works by allowing low income families to choose from privately owned residences. For landlords and property managers that participate in the program, it means that the difference between 30 % of that household’s income and the public housing authority’s (PHA), payment standard is met. This is typically somewhere between 80-100 % of the fair market rent.

Landlords or property managers who wish to participate in the program have to offer reasonable rents under the program’s standards. Those in the program are able to choose properties with a higher rent than the fair market amount, but then they pay the difference themselves.

If you’re thinking about being able to accept the Section 8 vouchers, there are a few things you should know. First off, a governmental agency or the local public housing authority will inspect your property to make sure it complies with the quality standards set about by HUD. Landlords are expected to provide sanitary, safe housing at reasonable rates and those standards have to be upkept as long as the owner is taking payments from the program.

When a family is eligible for Section 8, typically, they are placed on a waiting list. The amount of time on that list varies depending on the local market. There are different standards by which voucher program applicants are chosen from wait list to wait list in different municipalities.

Some of the most common requirements are:

  • A stove or range for cooking

  • Kitchen sink with both hot and cold water

  • A refrigerator that is of suitable size for the rental unit

  • Alternative exits for fire safety

  • Food preparation and storage area

  • Services and facilities for food waste disposal

  • One window per sleeping and living room

  • Working light fixtures in the kitchen and bath

  • Minimum two outlets in living room, bedrooms, and kitchen

  • Free from harmful air pollutants, adequate air circulation throughout

  • A toilet that flushes

  • A tub or shower that has both hot and cold water

  • Fixed basin for hot and cold water

  • Kitchen, bathroom, living room, minimum one bedroom or a living/sleeping room

  • Exterior doors and windows screened that can be accessed from exterior

  • No major defects

  • A weather tight, firm roof


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Kurt Kroeck

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