Affordable housing is difficult to come by in this economy, and the lower income households have really felt the impact of the growing inflation rates and the rapidly heating housing market.
Without any outside assistance, these individuals/families would have a hard time finding a roof over their heads, which is exactly where the Housing Choice Voucher program comes in.
Designed by the federal government to help those in need, the program aims to assist needy American families in finding affordable, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market.
However, the catch is that they don’t offer funding, but rather, vouchers that can be used to cover the cost of renting or purchasing a home, usually up the amount where the beneficiary will only have to dedicate 30% of their income to housing expenses.
These vouchers are funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is in charge of several other housing assistance programs you can make use of.
How does it work
Upon being deemed eligible for the program, the low-income family in question is given access to vouchers which they can use to pay for some of their housing expenses.
It’s important to note that not every landlord will accept these, and you’ll first want to find one that’s participating in the program before settling for a housing option.
Thankfully, the federal government offers a number of incentives to these landlords, making these vouchers much more favorable to them than they normally would be, so long as the home in question meets a number of requirements set by the HUD.
A minimum standard of safety and quality must be met in order for the landlord to remain part of the program, through which they can receive subsidies from the local public housing authority on behalf of the beneficiaries.
This way, the family can only pay for a fraction of the actual rent cost, decreasing the burden these payments have on their finances.
Much like the majority of other assistance programs, the federal government has to offer, eligibility for Section 8 is determined by the applicant’s annual income, and they must also meet the government’s definition of a family.
The general consensus is that the family’s income mustn’t exceed 50% of the median income for the area they’re applying in.
Statistically, 75% of the vouchers are offered to those below 30% of the federal poverty guideline, although these numbers can vary from year to year, depending on the state of the economy.
The public housing authority will collect data on your family’s composition, median income, and assets upon applying, after which they’ll review it thoroughly and determine whether you’re a fit for the program or not.
Even if you are labeled as eligible, you’ll be placed on a waiting list for benefits, and once it’s your time to receive Section 8 benefits, the PHA will contact you.
How to apply?
If the list is too crowded the PHA will close applications for the program until the majority of eligible applicants have received benefits.
Usually, the agency will publish a notice or a pre-application letter in the local newspapers when the application process is open, and you’ll want to take your chances as soon as possible.
While the program does function on a first come, first get served basis to some degree, those with a lower median annual income will take priority, and they’ll be the first to be taken off the waiting list for Section 8 benefits.
Due to demand always exceeding the actual availability of the vouchers, the waiting periods are exceptionally long, and it’s not uncommon for some applicants to wait several months for the benefits they’re already eligible for.
Usually, when there are more people on the list than the DOH believes they’ll be able to serve in the near future, applications will close, and you’ll have to wait for them to reopen once more if you wish to gain housing assistance.
The roles of the parties involved
Upon being approved for vouchers, the family will be given a rental agreement to sign, whereas the landlord will be signing a different document at the same time.
This way, everyone involved, including the landlord, tenants, and the DOH, has responsibilities toward the program they’ll have to uphold if they want to continue receiving benefits.
A good example is the fact that rent must be paid on time, with the unit maintained to be in the same condition the tenants found it in, making it possible for future tenants to inhabit the same space without any major difficulties.
On the other hand, the landlord’s responsibility is to provide a safe and sanitary living environment for his tenants as long as they’re receiving payments through the program, and they’re expected to continue doing this for the entire duration of the rental agreement.