If you participate in the Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8) program, you may also be eligible for an Obama Phone. Let’s briefly review how the program works, who qualifies for the program, and how to enroll.
The Housing Choice Vouchers program, commonly called Section 8, is a federally funded program that provides financial assistance for housing needs while still allowing families to choose where they live. It is available for low-income individuals and families, the elderly and the disabled. In general, the program provides subsidized payments that allow applicants to live in private dwellings or rental units instead of in public housing complexes. Additionally, qualifying for Section 8 Housing Assistance, or any other government program described on this site, also qualifies you for the Lifeline Assistance Obama Phone program.
How the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program Works
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) runs the program at the federal level, but the funds are distributed at the local level by public housing agencies (PHAs). After being accepted into the program, participants are advised on the type and size of dwelling that they are eligible to receive assistance for. Once the participants find a suitable dwelling, the owner of the dwelling must agree to participate in the Section 8 program. The residence must meet a basic level of safety and health in order to qualify. An inspection of the residence is required prior to approval to verify safety and that a reasonable rent is being charged. The program participant signs a standard rental lease for any period of time that is agreeable to both them and the landlord. The local public housing agency then agrees to subsidize the rent on the dwelling and sends the monthly check directly to the landlord instead of to the program participant. The participant is then required to pay the landlord any remaining amount that is owed on the rent.
Do you qualify for the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program?
The main criteria for the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program are the number of individuals in the family and the family’s total annual income. In addition, the program is only open to legal U.S. citizens and non-citizens who have been granted residency. The income limitation varies by county, but in general, it cannot exceed 50 percent of the median income of the area. The majority of participants in the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program have incomes around 30 percent of the median income for their area.
Local PHAs have the ability to set additional criteria for the Section 8 program. Meeting these criteria moves a family or an individual to the top of the waiting list over those who do not meet them. Below are some of the common criteria that gain an applicant priority in receiving assistance:
- Homeless or living in substandard housing
- Paying more than 50% of income for rent
- Involuntarily displaced
How to Enroll in the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program?
If you are interested in applying for the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program, you must do so through your local public housing agency. You must submit an application which records your total family income, all assets and the number of people in your family and their relationship to each other. The PHA then verifies the information with your bank, employers and other agencies.
If the application is approved, and funds are immediately available, the PHA issues a section 8 public housing voucher. However, in many counties there is a waiting list. In this case, the applicant’s name goes on the list, and they must wait until additional funds are available or others drop out of the program before they receive assistance. It is not uncommon for PHAs to close a Section 8 waiting list when they have far too many applicants and not enough funds available.