Finding Section 8 apartments for rent can make an already stressful hunt that much more difficult. Around 2 million families live in subsidized units within Section 8 housing and most of these families earn less than $20,000 a year.
Here's what you need to know about how to find housing and apartments that accept Section 8, based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Section 8 is a government-based program created by the HUD that benefits low-income residents who need assistance with paying rent. In order to qualify, families or individuals need to make less than a certain amount.
Section 8 was created with the following in mind:
In order to qualify for Section 8, you need to work with your local public housing agency (PHA). Your PHA will determine your eligibility for the Section 8 program based on your total annual income and the size of your family.
If you're interested in this program, you need to meet the requirements, which include family status and size, gross income, citizenship status, criminal history and eviction history.
The program is specific to U.S. citizens and small, specified categories on non-citizens. Visit your local PHA before beginning your apartment search to determine eligibility and the amount of housing payment you'll receive.
Keep in mind that just because you qualify, doesn't mean you'll automatically receive a voucher. According to an estimate on the HUD.gov website, only 25 percent of families that qualify for Section 8 actually receive it.
Because of high demand and low inventory for Section 8 apartments, the waiting list, maintained by the housing authority, can take years — the length and wait-time depend on your local market. If the PHA decides that your family is eligible, you're added to this list.
There are lottery systems set up as part of the waiting and acceptance process. Also, there's no guarantee that you'll get accepted and granted a voucher upon qualification.
The PHA has the ability to add their own preferences for selecting people on the waiting list and they can also close the list completely when it gets too full.
Confirm that your name is on the list after you submit your application. Keep in mind that the application process can take up to a few months. You can verify you're on the list by mail or by logging into the program's online portal.
The first thing you should check is your income. Section 8 apartment's rent is based on 30 percent of your income. Whatever is left over — the program pays for it. About 75 percent of families who receive Section 8 vouchers earn below 30 percent of the median income.
In terms of income, you'll need to figure out if you fall in the required income range for your state and county. The income requirement also factors in the combined income everyone in your household earns.
Here's an online tool from HUD.gov that gives you a better idea of what income limits look like, based on state and county.
You need to apply online or at your local public housing or HUD office, to get started. Here's a checklist of what you'll generally need and what you can expect when you're ready to start gathering your paperwork:
Upon receiving your Section 8 voucher, HUD allows 90 days for residents to find a new place that's decent, safe, sanitary and will pass inspection prior to moving in. In order to find apartments near you that accept Section 8, your search starts online.
Organization and pre-planning will help ensure your search for a Section 8 apartment goes smoothly. Think about the type of apartment you're looking for and how soon you need to move. Take into account price, location, safety and other neighborhood attributes as they often give insight into the cost of neighborhood amenities or services.
Check out HUD.gov's online map, an interactive tool that lists apartment buildings it has worked with through Section 8.
Searching Google for “apartments that accept Section 8" will also help. Additionally, you may also find a number of non-profit organizations in your area that offer aid in your search.
Here are a few:
After you find an apartment that accepts a Section 8 voucher, the property then needs approval. This likely includes a physical inspection. The PHA must approve the unit and the lease of your selected new home.
Gloria Shanahan, regional public affairs officer for HUD in Miami, said housing inspections are regularly conducted, “Each housing authority establishes contracts with landlords in its jurisdiction for apartments or homes that will abide by [HUD] rules and regulations. Inspections are performed frequently and contracts for individual families are reviewed on an annual basis."
You'll sign a lease with the landlord for at least one year. You may also be required to pay a security deposit. Then, the local public housing agency will pay the remaining portion of rent on your behalf each month.
Tenants have to follow certain rules in order to keep the voucher, such as living in the unit, respecting all lease agreement regulations. When the lease is up, the landlord may initiate a new lease or allow you to stay on a month-to-month lease.
While it's important to know who to call when you have a concern, HUD says fair treatment is essential when searching for an apartment that accepts Section 8.
Under the Fair Housing Act, it is unlawful to:
While finding Section 8 housing requires more work to apply and find an apartment, it'll be well worth it if you end up receiving a voucher. Just remember to follow up if you make it on the waiting list, and keep realistic expectations.