Families have to meet certain requirements set by the local housing authorities to be eligible for Section 8 housing. The most important requirement is income, and the qualifying threshold varies from region to region. In general, a family's income should not exceed 50 percent of the median income level for the area in which they live [source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development].
Another factor in determining eligibility is the number of people in a family. The fewer the people in a household, the lower the Section 8 income limit. For example, to qualify for Section 8 in Broward County, Fla., a family of eight would have to earn less than $31,350, while an individual would have to earn a minimum of $16,650 [source: Broward County Housing Authority]. In Tulsa, Okla., a one-person household has an income limit of just below $21,000, while a family of eight has to earn less than $39,150 [source: Housing Authority of Tulsa].
One of the goals of the Section 8 program is to give low-income people a chance to better their lives. If household income rises, the applicant can still receive rental assistance. Income limits matter only at the time a person or family applies for Section 8 assistance. However, rental assistance ends if the household income increases to 80 percent of the local median income, although a tenant can still stay in the house as long as they pay the entire rent.
Moreover, local housing agencies have wide discretion on establishing preferences based on various housing needs. Local PHAs often give preference to those who are homeless, living in substandard housing or who are paying more than 50 percent of their incomes for rent [source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development]. Other factors that may help a person qualify include the following:
- A U.S. military veteran, widow or widower
- Serving in the armed forces
- Living in a public or private care facility as a result of a severe illness or disability
- Age 62 or older
- Currently residing in a shelter
- Having children
- Victim of domestic abuse
- Other special need cases
Once the government approves you for a Section 8 voucher, you can live anywhere in the United States as long as the rental unit meets various HUD requirements for safety and quality. Because a family's housing needs change over time, a family can move from one Section 8 approved unit to another. In all cases, the tenant needs to sign a lease with the landlord. The landlord in turn signs an agreement with the PHA. Under the law, the landlord has to provide clean and safe housing at all times [source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development].
- Broward County Housing Authority. "Applicants." (Feb., 2011).http://www.bchafl.org/Pages/Housing_Options/Housing_Choice_Voucher_Program/Applicants.aspx
- Broward County Housing Authority. "Income Guidelines." (Feb., 2011).http://www.bchafl.org/Docs/Income%20Limits.pdf
- Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "Introduction to the Housing Voucher Program." May, 15, 2099. (Feb., 2011).http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=2817
- Housing Authority of the City of Tulsa. "Section 8/Assisted Housing." (Feb., 2011).http://www.tulsahousing.org/HousingOptions/Section8/tabid/59/Default.aspx
- Howard Husock. "Public Housing and Rental Subsidies." Cato Institute. June, 2009. (Feb., 2011).http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/hud/public-housing-and-rental-subsidies
- Katz, Alyssa. "Home Improvement: Federal aid for renters sparked a near-riot in Atlanta, but that's because it's so successful. How Section 8 is helping to spur the housing market." Newsweek. Aug., 17, 2010. (Feb., 2011).http://www.newsweek.com/2010/08/17/how-renters-aid-is-boosting-the-housing-market.html
- Naison, Mark. "Roundup: Historians' Take" Sonia Sotomayor's Appointment Highlights a Time When Public Housing Was a Place of Hope and Possibility for Working Class Families in the Bronx." History News Network. June, 30, 2009. (Feb., 2011).http://hnn.us/roundup/entries/88690.html
- Schneider, Craig and Morris, Mike. "Thursday calmer at East Point Housing Office." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Aug., 12, 2010. (Feb., 2011).http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/thursday-calmer-at-east-590299.html
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "FY Income Limits Documentation System-Select Geography. (Feb., 2011).http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/il/il2010/select_Geography_mfi.odn
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "Housing Choice Vouchers Fact Sheet." (Feb., 2011).http://www.hud.gov/offices/pih/programs/hcv/about/fact_sheet.cfm