History And Overview

Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937 was a Great Depression Era law that provided housing to low income families. Extended many times, the Congress substantially amended the law by the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974. This landmark legislation created the modern form of the Section 8 Housing Program. In its current form, the program is a housing subsidy for low-income families. It provides direct payments to providers of rental housing for the benefit of qualified low-income families.

Section 8 Programs –A Housing Choice Voucher

The Section 8 housing program provides housing assistance millions of families in the United States. It is an essential part of the social safety net, and meant to ensure a reasonable quality of life for Americans. The policy seeks to prevent homelessness and conditions fundamentally harmful to families and dependent children. The purpose of the law is to assist states and local communities provide safe and affordable housing. The primary vehicle is the section 8 voucher program. The voucher program provides funding approvals for low-income families. They can receive rent subsidies that take effect as a contract between a local public housing agency and a local provider of housing. The low income family pays a required amount based on income, and the section 8 program pays the difference up to a limit set by regulation. The limit is based on a local calculation of fair rental value.

Eligibility And Standards

There is a means test for basic eligibility, family income cannot exceed 50% of the median income for the local community ( usually defined as a Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area) or rural area. The tenants must pay 30% of gross monthly income towards rent and utilities. The Section 8 program requires providers and tenants to meet agreed obligations. Tenants must exercise care to maintain the property, avoid damage, and meet payment obligations. Providers must pass initial property inspections, maintain the premises according to standards, and deal fairly with tenants. There are specific requirements for terminating a lease arrangement including notice and due process through judicial proceedings.

How To Use The Section 8 Program

Contact the local public housing agency, HUD provides a list at this website. Proof of eligibility is the first step, families must earn less than 50% of the area median income. The tenants must pay 30% of gross monthly income towards rent and utilities. The local agency will take in the information and determine eligibility, the amount family must pay each month. Once approved, the family must find a place and the local agency can provide lists of any available, eligible properties. The agency will work with the landlord to set up the lease contract. In some areas there are long waiting lists, in those situations families may apply for both a voucher and a place in a subsidized housing project location. If needed, families can request local emergency assistance in the form of temporary shelter assistance.

Tenant-Based Approach

The section 8 program is a tenant-based approach. Intended to give low-income families the maximum amount of choice in selecting a location, the program differs from project-based programs in which families must select a specific unit or a unit in a specific facility. Funds come from Federal Grants to state and local agencies. They make agreements with housing providers and oversee the local operation of the program including eligibility, tenant obligations, lessor obligations, and housing standards. Among the benefits, the program can assist families seeking to purchase a first home, and assist with some related homeowner expenses. More than 5 million people in low-income families use vouchers. Of 2.1 million assisted households, more than 40 percent have dependent children.


HUD- Find Local Agency

HUD.Gov Portal Section 8 Housing Vouchers

National Coalition for the Homeless, Federal Housing Programs

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Policy Basics: The Housing Choice Voucher Program

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance