The Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly referred to as Section 8, is the largest United States affordable housing program funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). See the Section 8 Administrative Plan for a detailed look at the program.

The program’s primary purpose is to provide rental subsidy to low-income families for affordable decent, safe, and sanitary housing.

This tenant-based rental assistance program ensures that families are not forced to spend an unreasonable portion of their monthly income on shelter and allows them flexibility in selecting a community or neighborhood in which to live.

Eligibility for the voucher is based on a family’s household income.  See Income Limits. Seventy-five percent of new vouchers issued must be made available to families earning less than 30 percent of the area median income (AMI).

The voucher covers a portion of the rent and the tenant is expected to pay the balance.  The tenant’s share of rent is an affordable percentage of their income, which is generally between 30 to 40 percent of their monthly-adjusted gross income for rent and utilities.

The family searches for a rental unit in the private market with a landlord willing to accept the voucher.  Once they find a unit, HACA will inspect to ensure that it meets HUD’s Housing Quality Standards (HQS).  When the unit meets HQS and the rent is deemed appropriate for comparable rents for that size unit, the family and the landlord sign a lease.  When the family moves into the home, the landlord and HACA sign a Housing Assistance Payments Contract (HAPC).  The subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by HACA 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.

A family can move without jeopardizing their participation in the program as long as they notify HACA ahead of time, terminate the existing lease in accordance with the lease provisions and find acceptable alternate housing.

A family in the Section 8 program may choose to exercise a portability right that allows the family to move anywhere in the United States where there is a local housing authority that administers the Section 8 Program.  Their assistance travels with them.

If you’d like even more information, please visit HUD’s fact sheet on the Section 8 Program.

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