Steps to Receiving Housing Choice (Section 8) Vouchers

Researcher & Writer
February 06, 2016

The Housing Choice (Section 8) Voucher program offers rent subsidy vouchers to families who do not make enough money to pay their rent. If you think your family may be eligible, contact your local Public Housing Agency (PHA) to apply. Your PHA will help you navigate the steps below to apply for vouchers:

Get to know the program

It is important to learn about the program and your responsibilities as a participant before applying. Since the program is administered on the local level, it varies slightly from area to area. Your PHA will be able to tell you about the details of the program in your area.

In general, families are responsible for paying 30% of their gross household income on rent. The voucher covers the remaining cost. You will be responsible for paying your portion of the rent directly to your landlord. Your PHA will pay the voucher amount directly to the landlord. You will be advised of the maximum rent the voucher can cover based on the housing prices in your area.

Families are free to choose their own housing as long as it meets Housing Quality Standards (HQS) set by your PHA. HQS are not especially strict and serve to make sure the housing you choose provides a safe, clean and healthy living space.

Determine eligibility

Like all government programs, strict eligibility requirements determine who is accepted into the Housing Choice (Section 8) Voucher program. In addition to being asked for basic information like name, address and phone number, your PHA will collect information on your family size, composition and income, current rent payment and citizenship status. Vouchers are reserved for families whose household income is less than 50% of their area’s median income.


Many PHAs accept applications online. If you need help filling out your application, do not hesitate to ask your local PHA for help.


The majority of people who apply for the Housing Choice (Section 8) Voucher program are placed on a wait list. This is because the demand for Housing Choice vouchers greatly exceeds the number of vouchers available. In certain cases, it can take 3-6 years for families to be enrolled. 

Be aware that PHAs have the authority to move families up on the waitlist because of extreme circumstances (homelessness, etc.). Your PHA will notify you when a spot opens up. In the meantime, your PHA may be able to connect you with other public programs that can help with additional family needs before being enrolled in the Housing Choice (Section 8) Voucher program.

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