What Is the Housing Choice Voucher Program?

The Housing Choice Voucher Program assists low-income families, or those with disabilities, in finding safe and affordable housing in the private market. Local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) issue housing choice vouchers to qualified families. The program is funded by the Federal Department of Urban Development (HUD).

This is also commonly referred to as Section 8 housing. PHAs determine Section 8 eligibility for their area based on income and family size. In general, a family’s income must be below the 50% median income for their area to qualify for Section 8, but this can vary by city and state.

Key Takeaways

  • The Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8 housing, helps low-income or disabled families obtain affordable private housing.
  • This federal program assists low-income renters by providing vouchers that pay approximately 70% of their monthly rent and utilities.
  • Eligibility into the program is based on income and family size.
  • Landlords must follow strict HUD procedures when it comes to evicting tenants under the housing choice voucher program. 

Understanding the Housing Choice Voucher Program

The Housing and Community Development act of 1974 established the Housing Choice Voucher Program, which was an amendment to Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937. 

The Housing Choice Voucher Program works with the Public Housing Agency to find housing for families. Families can use their voucher towards dwellings varying from single-family private residences to apartments. These vouchers are not limited to subsidized housing projects; a family can choose any property.

Once they have chosen, a landlord has the option to agree to participate in the program or not. If the landlord agrees, the landlord will receive a subsidy directly from the housing authority that issued the voucher, and the tenants will pay the difference.

Some landlords may prefer to participate in these sorts of programs because they are guaranteed to receive a portion of the rent every month, regardless of whether the tenants have experienced financial hardship and are unable to meet their monthly obligation. The landlord is required to meet minimum safety and sanitary conditions and provide all services agreed upon to continue receiving the subsidy. The housing authority may cancel the subsidy at any time if the landlord refuses to meet these standards of living.

Mortgage lending discrimination is illegal. If you think you've been discriminated against based on race, religion, sex, marital status, use of public assistance, national origin, disability, or age, there are steps you can take. One such step is to file a report to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

Special Considerations

To qualify, a family must meet income and family size requirements. These figures are based on the median family income and size for the region. The wait time to be approved can be long, and preference will be given to families who are currently homeless, living in substandard housing conditions, or paying inflated rental costs. Inflated rental costs are generally considered to be more than 50 percent of the regional average.

Families are able to move from one housing unit to another due to income or job status changes, or the addition of family members. The voucher program thus attempts to provide mobility without losing housing benefits. Beneficiaries with vouchers sign leases with property owners with this program. With subsidized housing, residents sign leases with property managers who oversee federally owned projects.

What Is Public Housing?

Public housing is commonly also referred to as housing projects, which are government-funded housing facilities that cater to low-income families and the elderly. Although they may experience overlap with families who qualify for the housing voucher program, public housing is specifically directed at people who would not otherwise qualify for housing in the private sector.

The income requirements are different as well, meaning that these facilities are suited to tenants whose income may be too low to qualify for a housing voucher. Tenants are eligible to remain in public housing for as long as they are current on their lease, and their income does not increase beyond the standard minimum, which varies by region.