Housing Assistance for Low Income Families

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was created during the Great Depression of the 1930s to help low-income families find affordable housing. HUD has since expanded to include the construction of housing units for those with low incomes and the provision of rent subsidies for low-income families.

The Birth Of Section 8 Housing

The Housing and Community Development Act was passed by Congress in 1974 to help low-income families find and pay for safe and affordable housing by subsidizing a portion of their rent. This became known as the Section 8 Housing Program. Renters were only required to pay 30 percent of their total income for rent. The Federal Government then compensated landlords for the remaining 70 percent.

The Addition Of Section 8 Subcategories

Initially, the Section 8 Program included three different subcategories: Existing Housing, New Construction and Substantial Rehabilitation. In 1978, a new subcategory called Moderate Rehabilitation was added, and in 1983, a subcategory called the Voucher Program was also added. In 1991, a final subcategory called the Project-Based Certificate Program was added. All of these subcategories were created to determine whether landlords were qualified to participate in the Section 8 Program.

Who Is In Charge Of Section 8 Housing?

Section 8 Housing is regulated by the states. The number of programs in each state is determined by the amount of funding allocated to the state's Housing Authority. Funding amounts, programs and budgets are constantly changing due to fluctuations in the amount of money allocated to state Housing Authorities. However, for the most part, Congress has renewed funding for subsidies already in place.

Housing Voucher Program

The Housing Voucher Program was created for those who have very low incomes or who are elderly or disabled. These people receive subsidies that allow them to obtain safe, clean and affordable housing. The vouchers can be used for housing that best meets the needs of the tenants. Housing options include apartments, town houses and single family homes.

The requirements for the Voucher Program are determined by the Housing Authorities in each state. Family size and gross annual income are used to determine eligibility. Citizens of the U.S. and non-citizens with eligible immigration status all qualify for vouchers.

Application Process

Voucher Program applicants must supply the Housing Authority with a complete accounting of all income and assets, immigration status, and all family members named on the application. Banks, employers and family members are then contacted and interviewed. This is done to verify program eligibility and to determine the total amount of the subsidy.

Waiting List

Because vouchers are in high demand, most of those who obtain approval are placed on a waiting list until funding becomes available. This is true everywhere in the country. When funding is available, those on the waiting list are contacted by the Housing Authority and can obtain a voucher.

Families who are in certain situations when they apply for vouchers may be placed at the top of the waiting list if:

They are homeless
They are living in substandard or dangerous housing
Their total rent is more than 50 percent of their gross income
They have involuntarily lost their housing

Families that meet these criteria are moved to the top of the list according to need and local demand. Qualifications are determined by each state's Housing Authority and differ from one state to another.

Requirements For Participating Landlords

Housing chosen by those who qualify for vouchers must conform to the Housing Authority's safety and sanitation codes. To participate in the program, landlords must allow a local Housing Authority representative to inspect the premises to make sure they comply with Voucher Program requirements. If the housing is approved, a voucher will then be issued.

Landlords are not required to participate in the Section 8 Voucher Program, so not all landlords accept vouchers. Landlords may be unwilling to work with government agencies, or they may not understand how the Voucher Program works. Voucher Program participants must verify that a landlord is willing to accept vouchers and participate in the program.

Families with vouchers must report changes in income and family size to Section 8 promptly. Failure to report changes can be construed as fraud and can result in the loss of a voucher.

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