The Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) is a federal program managed by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) but administered by local Public Housing Agencies. The program provides rental assistance to low-income families seeking safe and healthy affordable housing.
The housing vouchers – also known as Section 8 vouchers, a subsidy that covers part of the rental price – are issued to families who then find housing that suits their needs and a property owner willing to rent under the program guidelines. The subsidy is paid directly to the landlord and the renter is responsible for the remainder of the rent not covered.
Despite the myth that “Section 8 housing” is limited to government housing projects, HCV assistance can cover apartments, townhomes, single-family homes … any variety of rental housing anywhere, as long as it is approved. But first, a voucher application is required. Read on to find out how to fill out a Housing Choice Voucher Program Application online.
Housing Choice Vouchers are primarily reserved for those earning under 30 percent of area median income but can be offered to those earning up to 50 percent. Other requirements may include citizenship, owned assets, family size and more, depending on your location.
But to determine if you qualify, a Housing Choice Voucher Program Application needs to be submitted. Fortunately, this can be done (mostly) online.
As mentioned, while a federal program, the HCVP is administered locally. So your first step is to find which of the 4,099 local public housing authorities (PHA) across the country is yours.
The above link lists the name, phone number and email address (click on the PHA name) of your local authority, but unfortunately not their website. To find it, search the name of your local authority from the website above on Google.
Alternately, your PHA’s email domain (the part of their email address after the @ symbol) on the above website may also be their website address. If you cannot find your local PHA’s website, contact them directly via phone or email for help.
Once you’ve found your local housing authority’s website, search the site for a section on “Housing Choice Vouchers” or “Section 8 Vouchers.”
On the application page, you must first determine if the application period is open. Programs have a dedicated application period during the year (often in January, and often as short as a week) during which you may apply. And not every authority has a period open every year – some only open once every few years. Some municipalities even have wait lists just to be able to apply.
If the application period is open, the next step is to fill out the form with your personal information and submit it. You will be asked for all your appropriate contact, background and income information. You may also be requested to attach copies of documents such as income verification and proof of citizenship.
Every PHA’s online application process will be different. Some will provide a form you can fill in and submit completely online. Some will have a PDF version of the form to print and fill out manually and then scan and submit via email. Some will require you to send the form in via the post office. Some won’t have the form at all or even have a website. For these areas, you’ll have to request a form by email or phone.
Some local authorities require an administrative fee at the time of application as well. If this is the case, you’ll be directed by your local authority’s website on when and how to submit payment electronically or how to receive financial assistance for the fee.
Once you have completed and submitted your application, you’ll be placed on a voucher waiting list. Unfortunately, because of increased demand without a similar increase in funding, many local housing authorities have waiting lists that are years long.
Most authorities use a lottery system to randomly determine who receives a voucher, rather than first-come, first-served. As well, elderly people, veterans, those with disabilities, students, those with existing local residency or employment and those who are currently homeless often take priority.
If you’re not bound by geographic area, there is good news. While you can have only one open application at each local housing authority, you many open an application with as many different PHAs as you wish in different geographic areas. But remember, if you’re accepted in one locale, you’re required to live within its borders to use the voucher.
If you do get chosen from the waiting list, you’ll then have your current income and eligibility re-verified and each member of the household over the age of 18 will receive a background check. Once you have passed these final checks, you’ll be contacted by your PHA and they will direct you on how to find qualified housing.
Those not chosen during the grant period will either be put back into the lottery for the following grant period (or when more funding becomes available) or removed from the waiting list entirely, depending on your local authority’s procedure. If your authority purges their waiting lists after each period, you must then start the entire process over during the next eligibility period.