Should I Apply for Housing Choice (Section 8) Vouchers?

Researcher & Writer
February 16, 2016

Nearly 2 million people in the United States are assisted by the Housing Choice (Section 8) Voucher program each year. Families apply to the program through their local Public Housing Agency (PHA). After gathering information and applying, eligible families are placed on a wait list before they are able to start receiving benefits.

There are a variety of eligibility requirements associated with the Housing Choice (Section 8) Voucher program, the biggest of which being the household income requirement. Housing Choice (Section 8) Vouchers are reserved for very-low and low-income families. For the income limits in your area, see this page. If your household income falls within these limits, you are likely eligible for Housing Choice (Section 8) Vouchers.

When applying for Housing Choice (Section 8) Vouchers, it’s important to note the long wait times families tend to experience before being accepted into the program. Roughly 6 million families are eligible for the program, yet just 2 million are able to be served each year. Because of this high-demand, families often wait months, even years, to be get a spot in the program. Being accepted and placed on the wait list is the first step in being accepted into the program.

Though wait times can be long, families who are eligible for the program are encouraged to apply. There are a variety of reasons this makes sense. First, the sooner a family applies, the sooner they can be accepted into the program, even if it’s quite some time after application. This can be beneficial because when a family is accepted into the program, they will continue receiving benefits as long as they are eligible. This means there is no re-application process involved once benefits are granted.

A second reason eligible families are encouraged to apply despite long wait times is that PHAs have the authority to place families in the program out of order based on specific needs. In other words, the wait list is not first come, first serve. Local PHAs set priorities based on the needs of the community they serve. Families meeting those priorities are given priority service. The following are examples of reasons a family may be placed higher on the list:

  • The family is currently homeless.
  • The family is living in severely substandard housing.
  • The family is paying more than 50% of their household income for rent.
  • The family has been involuntarily displaced from their home.
Written by
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