Section 8 Eligibilty and How it Works
When it comes to Section 8 eligibility it all begins with two key factors: how much money your family makes (total annual gross income) and how many members live in your household (family size). In general, a family’s income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metro where the family currently, or would like, to reside. Later in this guide we will show you a breakdown of the income level to family member ratio to learn if you fulfill this vital eligibility requirement. In addition to income requirements, you will also be required to provide the following:
☑️ Photo identification for all adult household members
☑️ Proof of legal residence in the United States for all household members
☑️ Social Security number verification for all household members
☑️ Verification of all household income and assets
During the application process, your Local Public Housing Authority (PHA) will also will collect information on family income, assets, and family composition. They will verify this information with other local agencies, your employer and bank, and will use the information to determine program eligibility and the amount of the housing assistance payment you will receive. In addition to this they will also check:
☑️ Criminal record of all adult family members
☑️ No Sexual Offenders (not eligible for section 8)
If you haven’t already, Get Your Background Checked Now. You can be sure HUD will check your background, it’s much better to know what’s there before they do to see what resolutions / explanations will be necessary.
If you haven’t already, Get Your Free Credit Score Now. Landlords and Owners will check your credit score before offering you a residence. It’s much better to know what’s there now and to get it repaired than to be refused housing at a later time.
Additional Section 8 Eligibility Factors
In addition to the above, HUD and its local agencies also consider a variety of other factors when considering a potential recipients eligibility. Need weighs heavily on the decision as local housing authorities must give preference to the following:
☑️ Low-income families
☑️ Families with household earnings less than 30% of the county or metro’s median income
☑️ Homeless families
☑️ Age 62 or older
☑️ Veteran of US armed services (widow)
☑️ Working more than 42 hours per week
☑️ Currently living in a shelter
Of new Section 8 applicants admitted to the program each year, 75% must be extremely low-income.
The Reality – Being Eligible May Not Be Enough
Section 8 is not an entitlement benefit. This means that even if you qualify and are considered eligible, you still may very well not receive one. In many counties and metros, there are far more Section 8 voucher seekers than available vouchers. It has been estimated that only 25% of eligible families actually receive the voucher and even if they do receive it, waiting lists are extremely long. In the most active areas the waiting period can take up to 5 years. We don’t present any of this to discourage potential applicants, however, it’s important to have a good handle of the realities and if you’re in an emergency situation, make sure you call your local PHA now and set up an appointment with them to discuss your specific situation in detail.
Income Guidelines By Family Size
As discussed in Step 1 of this guide, the first step to finding out if you’re eligible for Section 8 is to review the Income Guidelines. Each income amount is 50% of the median income. To repeat, 75% of all vouchers are given to individuals and families that are at or less than 30% of their areas median income. It’s also important to note that median income differs from location to location. Contact your local PHA to ensure you’re viewing the correct numbers.
Income guidelines are established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
To put these numbers into perspective, for a 2 person family the average median income would be $57,800. If this 2 person family combined had an annual income of $28,900 (50% of median income), they would be eligible for Section 8. If this 2 person family combined had an annual income of $17,340 (30% of median income) they could be considered as a priority recipient for a voucher.
Defrauding (HUD) Section 8 Housing
The answer to committing Section 8 fraud in one word is simple: DON’T. Not only do you risk losing your voucher putting you and your family in a terrible situation, you also risk fines and even jail time. HUD’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) Office of Investigation is the law enforcement component of the Department. Their special agents have experience in conducting investigations in all programs of the Department to include tenant and public housing authority (PHA) fraud, waste, and abuse. Unlike other law enforcement agencies, OIG is a part of the Department and has a vested interest in maintaining the integrity of Departmental programs. In addition many states have their own internal investigative unit and actively pursue those committing fraud. Keep in mind that your status to receive the Section 8 voucher is reviewed each year. Never lie during a review or you will again be risking serious penalties for both you and your family.
❌ Top fraud issues tend to pertain to the following:
❌ Knowingly omitting or under-reporting income or assets from household income.
❌ Transferring assets or income to achieve eligibility.
❌ Falsifying or using false Social Security documents.
❌ Falsifying the number of members in your household.
❌ Getting assistance on top of Section 8 without notifying the appropriate parties.
❌ Renting out or subletting all or part of the unit.
❌ Charging rent from any tenants who may be living with you.
Additionally, these are big no-no’s and could swiftly account for loss of your voucher:
❌ Use of drugs, dealing drugs, trading in prostitution or commit a crime
❌ Violation of anything in the lease agreement / damage to property
Also keep in mind that anyone could report you for Section 8 fraud. Common cases include landlords, neighbors, ex-friends / lovers. Don’t take the risk, if your status changes, you must notify your local PHA.
What If I Start Making More Money?
If you qualify for Section 8 and then your situation stabilizes, and your household’s income rises, don’t worry. That’s the goal of the program after all. The income limits for qualification only matter at the time you apply for Section 8 assistance. However, as your family earns more, your vouchers will be proportionately reduced. Once you’re earning over 80 percent of local median income, your assistance will fade out entirely.