What To Know About Section 8 Housing Applications

In the early 1970s, federal assistance for housing was increased as part of the Housing and Urban Development Act. This allowed low-income people to more easily become tenants of apartment buildings thanks to the Section 8 program.

These days, around 3 million households are included in the Section 8 program, with tenants averaging around six years as Section 8 recipients. If you’re in need of rent assistance, you may be able to join the millions that are in Section 8 housing. Here’s what you need to know when applying for the monthly voucher.


Before applying for Section 8, you’ll want to ensure you’re eligible for the program. Section 8 recipients must be United States citizens or have an eligible immigration status. These statuses are:

  • Refugee
  • Permanent Legal Resident
  • Lawful Temporary Resident
  • Asylee


If you meet these qualifications, you’ll have to be below a certain income level. Each metropolitan area of the United States has a median income, and Section 8 recipients must be below 50 percent of that median number. For example, if the median income in a city is $60,000 per year, your income would have to be below $30,000 per year to qualify.

Not every metropolitan area will be the same in terms of median income levels or to who Section 8 vouchers are given. There are many areas in which Section 8 recipients are making 30 percent or less of the median income.

Health and Age

Those that are young and healthy while also making around 50 percent of the median income level tend to be the last in line for Section 8 housing. Instead, a top priority is given to those that are older and have medical conditions that require shelter to be safe. Senior citizens are given first consideration, so if you do have a senior living with you, it’s vital that they’re listed on the application.

Also, no matter how minor, make sure to list any medical condition that you may have along with a doctor’s note in the application. Those with disabilities that include deafness, blindness, mental illness, and many others are more likely to be approved for a Section 8 housing voucher.

Stay In Touch With the PHA

When applying for Section 8, it’s important to become well acquainted with your local public housing agency, or PHA for short. It’s through your area’s agency that you’ll be applying for Section 8, as well as receiving updates and partaking in meetings. Those that are in emergency need (such as a previous home becoming unlivable) should contact their local PHA right away to get the process started.

The PHA will never ask you for money throughout the application process. If anyone saying that they’re with an agency asks for money, it is a scam. These scams should be reported to the PHA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development immediately. 

How Long Will You Wait?

Every metro area will be different in terms of how long a Section 8 applicant is waiting to hear their name called. In a perfect world, Section 8 applications would be sorted out within a week, but unfortunately, it can take years. Most people who are approved for Section 8 have been on the waiting list for one to two years.

During this time, it’s likely that a waiting applicant will get an opportunity to receive a project-based voucher (PBV). These are monthly subsidies where rent is fixed to a percentage of income, typically at 30 percent. Around a quarter-million Americans each year are entered into this program.

Finding Housing

After finally becoming approved and receiving a Section 8 voucher, an applicant will have to find qualified housing. Not all landlords will accept Section 8, so it can be difficult in some metro areas to find anything available. Once you do find the right spot, the local public housing agency will pay rent directly to the landlord so that it’s one less concern you’ll have to deal with.

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