How can you apply for Section 8 Housing?

Section 8 vouchers can help provide clean and safe housing for low-income families. See more real estate pictures.

When housing officials in one Atlanta suburb came to work on Aug. 11, 2010, they were greeted by a near riot. Around 30,000 people converged on the offices of the East Point Housing Authority hoping to obtain one of the 455 vouchers for government-subsidized rental housing known as Section 8.

The housing authority had exhausted its old Section 8 voucher waiting list and was in the process of taking applications for a new list when the melee ensued. Thousands came to fill out an application, although there were no guarantees anyone would receive a voucher or even a slot in one of the few available public housing apartments. Filling out the paperwork only ensured people a place on the new Section 8 waiting list [source: Schneider and Morris]. It was hot standing in line. It was humid. Tempers flared. The police arrived. People went to the hospital. Others went to jail.

Why did so many people want an application? For years, no one in the Atlanta area could get on a Section 8 waiting list. There were not enough available vouchers to go around. When word got out that officials were accepting new applications, thousands descended on the East Point housing office [source: Katz]. To complicate matters, housing authorities in and around the city had already razed more than a dozen public housing projects since 1994, creating an additional strain on an already overburdened public housing system. Moreover, the nation's faltering economy had left many of the region's poor scrambling for places to live. Thousands found themselves competing for the limited number of Section 8 vouchers [source: Katz].

Public housing in the United States has been synonymous with crime and urban blight. But Section 8 is different. It is appealing. Instead of living in a public housing project, Section 8 tenants live where they want. They can move to communities with better schools, less crime and more services. With the glut of housing caused by economic recession at the end of this century's first decade, many Section 8 tenants have found new homes in quiet residential neighborhoods [source: Katz]. Moreover, research shows that Section 8 is more cost effective for the government than building new low-income housing [source: Center of Budgeting Policy Priorities].

So how exactly do you apply for Section 8 housing? Keep reading to find out.