What is Section 8?



Section 8 is a term most of us have heard being thrown around in conversation or mentioned on the news. But what is actually Section 8? The Section 8 program, also known as Housing Choice Voucher program, is a national rental housing assistance program in the United States first established in the Housing and Community Development Act of 1978.

  • Where do I go to apply for Section 8?
    The Section 8 housing program is a federal housing program run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Public housing agencies (PHAs) such as the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) in New York City will administer and operate the program locally.
  • Who can get Section 8 and who qualifies?
    The individuals who can be a recipient of Section 8 is based on the family’s gross annual income and family size. The program works as a rental subsidy that allows families to pay a reasonable amount of their income toward their rent. Usually, this comes out to no more than 40 percent of their monthly income and the family’s income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area where they choose to live. There is a waiting list to receive Section 8. Check to see if you qualify for Section 8 vouchers here.
  • How long will it take to apply and receive Section 8?
    Due to high interest in Section 8 programs, applicants can often wait years to be approved and sometimes certain PHAs will stop accepting applications when waiting lists become too long. We recommend reaching out to your local PHA or the Office of Public Housing within your local HUD office to inquire about their situation. For NYCHA, you can reach out to them here.
  • How do you use a Section 8 voucher?
    If you have received a Section 8 you can use it when searching for housing. There are both landlords and agents who accept and work with Section 8, alongside those who don’t. Once you find an apartment or home that accepts and fits Section 8 program requirements, be sure to set up a physical inspection with your local PHA to ensure that the building is decent, safe, and sanitary. Once this process is complete, your local PHA such as NYCHA will execute a contract with and pay the remaining amount (also knowns as the Housing Assistance Payment) to the owner of the apartment on the family’s / individual’s behalf.
  • Where can you use a Section 8 voucher?
    You can use the Section 8 voucher when looking for apartments in either a specified complex or in the private sector. It’s not always easy to know which apartment complexes, agents, or landlords accept Section 8, so simply ask when inquiring.
  • How much rent will I need to pay when utilizing a Section 8 voucher?
    The Section 8 voucher works similarly to the public housing one in that it allows tenants to live in apartments and pay only 30 percent of their income to rent. The Section 8 voucher pays the difference. So if you live in an apartment with a rent of $1,000 and you make $30,000 a year, you would be responsible for paying $9,000 a year or $750 a month and the voucher would make up the rest.
  • Can I choose an apartment that’s more expensive than the Fair Market Rent?
    The Fair Market Rent for each area is established by the HUD. If the rent of the apartment you choose is more expensive than the Fair Market Rent for the area, then you may need to pay more. Take the previous example, if the Fair Market Rent for the area you live in is only $800 but your apartment rent is $1000, that means you’ll need to pay an additional $200 on top of 30% of your income (aka $750) a month.
  • Can I move after receiving a Section 8 voucher?
    Given that the Section 8 voucher program is a federal program, you are able to relocate from one city to another, even from one state to another as long as your Section 8 Voucher is tenant-based (meaning tied to you as the tenant) and the city/state you relocate to has a PHA that can administer the voucher. Note: Section 8 Vouchers that are project-based can not be relocated as the Section 8 Voucher is tied to a particular property.

Other Common Section 8 Questions

  • Can I be denied an apartment because I have Section 8?
    There are plenty of articles out there discussing Section 8, and the benefits of renting to people with Section 8 and vice versa. Having Section 8 is not a bad thing, on the contrary. Section 8 has a purpose, which is to help people who can’t pay the full rent. Who accepts a Section 8, however, can vary as a landlord can refuse Section 8 tenants if they are allowed to by state law (this differs state by state).
  • Some of the common arguments for renting to people with Section 8:
    Having Section 8 means consistent rent payment. This is a strength and it should make you a good applicant for an apartment. More good things come with having Section 8, such as a consistent tenant base and pre-screened tenants for the landlord and targeted marketing.
  • What are affordable housing lotteries?
    Low-income individuals or families will often find themselves pushed out of the running for apartments due to issues such as low combined income and poor credit scores. The goal of affordable housing lotteries is to ensure the less fortunate don’t get left behind. NYC Housing Connect offers lotteries in regard to affordable housing opportunities and the site provides information about how to apply, who is eligible, and currently available housing opportunities throughout the city. Before applying, applicants should review the eligibility guidelines provided by the website. You can read more about finding affordable housing on our site here.
  • Can Section 8 be utilized to pay off monthly home mortgages?
    Yes, it can be. Individuals and families will need to have been Section 8 participants for at least one year, maintain a stable monthly income and minimum income threshold (varies by county),  and attend homebuyer education classes, along with other requirements. Not all PHAs will offer such a program. We recommend checking in with your local PHA to see if they are currently offering such a program.

Map explained

From the map shown above one can see the interest over time for the search term “section 8”. We used data from Google Trends to showcase the interest over time on a subregion level, with the data going all the way back from 2005 to now. Google Trends scores search queries from 0 to 100, with the value of 100 being the most commonly searched query, 50 being a query searched half as often, and so on. Using the same metrics as Google Trends, we have mapped the popularity of the search term “section 8” by subregion. The subregion where the search term was the most popular was Georgia and Louisiana with a score of 100. The subregion where the search term was the least popular was Alaska who had a score of 28.

Section 8 is a helpful tool for those who need it. If you are having issues paying rent, check to see if you qualify for Section 8 vouchers, as this could help you out as a renter tremendously. Check to see if you’re eligible to receive the rental assistance voucher. Also, check the links provided in the article for more information on finding affordable housing.

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