What is Section 8?

Back to top
Section 8 is a program that helps people with low-income pay for housing. It can help you get an apartment or buy a home. If you are on the voucher program, you will usually pay about 30% of your monthly household income for rent. The federal government pays the rest.

To be eligible for Section 8, you must:

  • Have a low household income
  • Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible immigrant. Eligible immigrants include permanent legal residents, refugees, asylees, and lawful temporary residents
  • Not have had problems in the past with federally-funded housing programs, such as being evicted or committing fraud

To get Section 8, you have to apply to public housing authorities (PHAs).

What are the income limits for getting Section 8?

Back to top
Almost all vouchers go to people with very low incomes. The exact income limits are different depending on the number of people in your household and where you live.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has the income limits for your situation.

Does Section 8 have asset limits?

Back to top
No. To be eligible for Section 8 there is no maximum on the value of the assets you own. However, when the housing authority figures out your income, it will count a portion of your assets as income. Note: The growth of the investments in an ABLE account will not be counted as income. Learn more about ABLE accounts.

Besides income, what factors are important for getting Section 8 housing?

Back to top
The Public Housing Authority will consider your entire application when deciding if you qualify, so make sure to fill out the forms fully and correctly. Things that may help you qualify for Section 8 include:
  • Having a disability
  • Being age 62 or older
  • Being a U.S. Armed Services veteran, widow, or widower
  • Being homeless
  • Currently residing in a shelter
  • Having children

What’s the difference between the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program and Section 8 project-based housing?

Back to top
The Housing Choice Voucher Program (also called “tenant-based Section 8”) lets you choose any apartment you want, as long as it meets the size and price requirements given to you by your Public Housing Authority.

In Section 8 project-based housing, the local housing authority has contracted directly with the owner of a housing unit to make it available for people in the Section 8 program to live in. When one of these units is empty, the housing authority will offer it to someone that is waiting for Section 8 housing.

Project-based rental assistance provides the same amount of financial assistance as the voucher program does and the application and eligibility requirements are also the same. A big difference between project-based rental assistance and the Section 8 voucher program is that it is not always possible to keep your project-based rental assistance when you move.

Should I apply to more than one housing authority?

Back to top
Yes, you should apply to the Public Housing Authority that manages each of the areas where you’d like to live. In most areas there are not enough vouchers to help everyone that wants one. After you fill out an application, you will probably be put on a waiting list. If you apply to several housing authorities in the area you want to live in, you’ll probably get a Section 8 voucher sooner. Most housing authorities have a local residency preference, so if you apply to ones outside the area where you currently live, the wait could be longer.

Find public housing authorities (PHAs).

What happens when I am selected from the waiting list?

Back to top
When you are selected from the waiting list,
  1. You will go through a screening process to make sure you meet the eligibility requirements for the program.
  2. If you pass the screening, you must attend a meeting at the housing authority, called a “Section 8 Briefing.”
  3. After the briefing you have 60 to 120 days (two to four months), to find a rental unit that is affordable and where the landlord will accept the voucher.

Can I get reasonable accommodations to help me with the Section 8 application process?

Back to top
Yes. If your disability makes any part of the application process difficult for you, you can ask for a reasonable accommodation that will help you have a chance to participate in the program. Reasonable accommodations could include things like help filling out the application, being given extra time to find rental housing, or assistance finding housing that meets your needs.

What should I do if the housing authority waiting list for my area is closed?

Back to top
If a waiting list is “closed,” that means the housing agency will not let you apply. You need to find other housing agencies in the area that have “open” waiting lists. Find other local public housing authorities.

What should I do if I move or change my phone number after I apply for a housing program?

Back to top
Notify the housing authority immediately. If the housing authority tries to contact you, but can’t find you, they might decide that you don’t want Section 8 and take you off their waiting list. Most housing authorities do not request the post office to forward mail, so it’s very important that you give the housing authority updated contact information.

Who can help me with my Section 8 application?

Back to top
The housing authority itself is the best source of help with the application. If you decide to get help from someone else, remember that no one should ever charge you for a Section 8 application; it’s illegal to sell a Section 8 application or voucher.

What can I do if my application for a Section 8 voucher is denied?

Back to top
You can talk to the housing authority about their decision. However, the housing authority is not required to offer an informal hearing for applicants on every administrative decision. You can also appeal their decision. When you are told that you have been denied, the housing authority is required to provide instructions on how you can appeal. If you wish to appeal, you should do it quickly, because there is a time limit for appealing.

How can I find an affordable apartment?

Back to top
There are a couple of good websites where you can start your search for affordable housing:

You should also ask the housing authority for a list of available property owners in its area.

How long will my Section 8 voucher last?

Back to top
Section 8 provides long-term support. As long as funding is available and your income or other family circumstances don’t change much, Section 8 will keep helping you.

Can the Section 8 program help me buy a house or pay for my current house?

Back to top
Yes. Section 8 can help you by providing homebuyer education and mortgage readiness counseling. The program will even help you with your down payment or closing costs. However, not all housing authorities offer this program.

To qualify for this program, called the Section 8 Homeownership Program, you must:

  • Be a current Section 8 voucher program participant or eligible for it
  • Not currently own a home or have owned one in the last three years
  • Not have previously received homeownership assistance or have defaulted on a mortgage
  • Attend and complete a homeownership counseling program
  • Have full-time employment, if you are not disabled or elderly

For more information or to apply, ask the housing authorities in your area if they allow people to use their vouchers for buying a home. Find local public housing authorities.

What is public housing?

Back to top
Public housing is rental housing for low-income people that is owned and managed by a local government agency. Eligibility requirements are usually the same as for the Section 8 voucher program. You must:
  • Have a low household income
  • Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible immigrant. Eligible immigrants include permanent legal residents, refugees, asylees, and lawful temporary residents
  • Not have had problems in the past with federally-funded housing programs, such as being evicted or committing fraud

To apply for public housing, contact public housing authorities.

Since waiting lists for public housing may be very long, you should apply to several authorities in order to improve your chances of getting housing soon.

What is Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA)?

Back to top
If you or a member of your household is living with HIV/AIDS and your household has low or moderate income, you may be able to get help with housing costs through the HOPWA program. HOPWA can help with short-term rent, mortgage, and utility payment assistance.

HOPWA assistance is available through 4 housing agencies in Arizona:

If I start working, will I lose my Section 8 or Public Housing?

Back to top
Not necessarily. In order to encourage people to start working, many housing programs have a rule called the Earned Income Disregard (EID) that allows tenants with disabilities who start working to pay the same amount of rent for the first year after starting work.

What is an Earned Income Disregard (EID)?

Back to top
An Earned Income Disregard (EID) is when your Public Housing Authority doesn’t count your income when you first start a job. That means that if you get help with your rent from a housing program and then start working, your rent will stay the same for a year, even though you are earning more money. During your second year on the job, your housing authority will count only half of your total work earnings. This rule means that you can get a job without having to worry about being unable to afford your rent.

To qualify for an Earned Income Disregard, you or a member of your household must have a disability and be in one of the following programs:

  • Section 8 Houcing Choice Voucher Program
  • Public Housing
  • HOME Investment Partnerships Program
  • Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA)

Who can help me if I am having trouble making my mortgage payments?

Back to top
If you are having trouble paying your mortgage, the first step to getting help is to call a foreclosure hotline:
  • The Arizona Foreclosure Prevention Helpline can be called at 1-877-448-1211.
  • Making Home Affordable is a national hotline with counselors available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 1-888-995-HOPE (4673).

These hotlines have experts who will answer the phone and give you information about what you can do to keep your home.