BARRISTER'S BRIEFING: Section 8 Program in a Nutshell

Leon Cameron, Esq. | January 2019

The housing choice voucher program (a.k.a. “Section 8”) is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments.

The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects. Housing choice vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies. The PHAs receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to administer the voucher program.

A family that is issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of the family’s choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program. This unit may include the family’s present residence. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by the PHA.

A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the PHA on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program. Under certain circumstances, if authorized by the PHA, a family may use its voucher to purchase a modest home.

Eligibility for a housing voucher is determined by the PHA based on the total annual gross income and family size and is limited to U.S. citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status. In general, the family’s income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which the family chooses to live. By law, a PHA must provide 75% of its voucher to applicants whose incomes do not exceed 30% of the area median income. Median income levels are published by HUD and vary by location. The PHA serving your community can provide you with the income limits for your area and family size.

During the application process, the PHA will collect information on family income, assets, and family composition. The PHA will verify this information with other local agencies, the applicant’s employer and bank, and will use the information to determine program eligibility and the amount of the housing assistance payment.

If the PHA determines that an applicant’s family is eligible, the PHA will put his or her name on a waiting list, unless it is able to assist the applicant immediately. Once the applicant’s name is reached on the waiting list, the PHA will contact the applicant and issue him or her a housing voucher.

If an individual is interested in applying for a Section 8 voucher, his or her local PHA should be contacted. A list of PHA offices within New York State can be found at https://bit.ly/2Ffj1eS.

Editor’s Note: The foregoing is for information purposes only and does not confer an attorney/client relationship. For a legal opinion or advice specific to your situation, please consult with a private attorney at law.

Leon Cameron, Esq.
Leon Cameron, Esq., is Director of Legal Services & Professional Standards Administrator for the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.