Section 8 Questions
WHAT ARE HOUSING CHOICE (SECTION 8) VOUCHERS?
The Housing Choice (Section 8) voucher program is the federal
government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and
the disabled to rent decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the open market. Since the
rental assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able
to find and lease privately owned housing, including single-family homes, townhouses
and apartments. The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the
requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing
Housing Choice (Section 8) vouchers are administered locally by public and
Indian housing agencies (HAs). The HAs receive federal funds from the U.S. Department
of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to
administer this voucher program. A family that is issued a rental voucher
is responsible for finding and selecting a suitable rental unit of the family’s choice. This unit may
include the family’s present residence. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and
safety, as determined by the HA. A rental subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the HA 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
AM I ELIGIBLE?
Eligibility for a rental voucher is determined by the HA based on the total
annual gross income and family size and is limited to U.S. citizens and specified
categories of noncitizens who have eligible immigration status. In general, the family’s
income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area
in which the family chooses to live. Median income levels are published by HUD and
vary by location. Please click here to view the Income Limits for Butte County.
During the application process, the HA will collect information on family income, assets,
and family composition. The HA 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 rental assistance payment.
If the HA determines that your family is eligible, the HA will put your name on a waiting list,
unless it is able to assist you immediately. Once your name is reached on the waiting
list, the HA will contact you and issue to you a rental voucher.
HOW DO I APPLY?
If you are interested in applying for a voucher, you can visit our Forms and Documents page or contact our office.
FEDERAL PREFERENCES AND WAITING LIST — WHAT ARE THEY AND HOW DO
THEY AFFECT ME?
Since the demand for housing assistance often exceeds the limited resources available
to HUD and the local housing agencies, long waiting periods are common. In fact, an
HA may close its waiting list when it has more families on the list than can be assisted
in the near future.
When selecting a family from its waiting list, an HA may give preference to a family who is
(1) homeless or living in substandard housing, (2) paying more than 50% of its income
for rent, or (3) involuntarily displaced. Families who qualify for these preferences will
move ahead of other families on the list who do not qualify for any preference. Each
HA has the discretion to establish other additional preferences to reflect other needs of
its particular community.
RENTAL VOUCHERS — HOW DO THEY FUNCTION?
The Housing Choice voucher program places the choice of
housing in the hands of the individual family. A very low-income family who has been
selected by the HA to participate is encouraged to consider several housing choices to
secure the best rental housing for its needs.
The rental unit must meet an acceptable level of health and safety before the HA can
approve payments to landlords under the voucher program.
When the voucher holder finds a unit that it wishes to occupy and
reaches an agreement with the landlord over the lease terms, the HA must inspect the
dwelling and review the lease for approval. A rental voucher holder is
also advised of the unit size for which it is eligible, based on family size and
composition, and the applicable rent levels.
The HA determines a payment standard which is used to
calculate the amount of rental assistance a family will receive, but does not affect the
amount of rent a landlord may charge or the family may pay. A family which receives a
rental voucher can select a unit which rents below or above the payment standard. The
rental voucher family must pay more than 30% of its monthly adjusted gross income for
rent and utilities if the unit rent is greater than the payment standard. However, the
family would pay less than 30% of its monthly adjusted gross income if the total rent
was less than the payment standard.
THE RENT SUBSIDY
Under the Housing Choice voucher program, a family may choose a unit that rents for more than
the payment standard and may pay more or less than 30% of its monthly adjusted
gross income for rent. The HA calculates the maximum amount of rental assistance
allowable, which is the difference between the payments standard and 30% of the
family’s monthly adjusted gross income, and pays rental assistance. The amount of
rental assistance paid by the HA changes with the payment standard while the amount
the tenant pays varies with the actual rent. For example, if a family locates a unit that
rents below the payment standard, the family would pay less than 30% of its monthly
adjusted gross income for rent. On the other hand, if a family decides to rent a unit
above the payment standard, it would pay over 30% of its monthly adjusted gross
income for rent. The family’s rent share also changes when its income or family
circumstances change. New Voucher holder may not pay over 40% of their income towards rent.
CAN I MOVE AND CONTINUE TO RECEIVE HOUSING CHOICE VOUCHER (SECTION 8) ASSISTANCE?
A family’s housing needs change over time with changes in family size, job locations,
and for other reasons. The Housing Choice voucher program is designed
to allow families to move without the loss of rental assistance. Moves are permissible
as long as the family notifies the HA ahead of time, terminates its existing lease within
the appropriate provisions, and finds acceptable alternate housing. You may learn more about using your voucher in another county by reading the Request for Portability document.
Under the voucher program, new voucher-holders may choose a unit anywhere in the United States if the family lived
within the jurisdiction of the HA issuing the voucher when the family
applied for assistance. Those new voucher-holders not living
within the jurisdiction of the HA at the time the family applies for rental assistance must
initially lease a unit within that jurisdiction for the first twelve months of assistance. A
family that wishes to move to another HA’s jurisdiction must consult with the HA that
currently administers it rental assistance to verify the procedures for moving.
ROLES – THE TENANT, THE LANDLORD, THE HOUSING AGENCY, AND HUD
Once an HA approves an eligible family’s lease and housing unit, the family and the
landlord sign a lease and, at the same time, the landlord and the HA sign a housing
assistance contract which runs for the same term as the lease. This means that
everyone — tenant, landlord and HA — has obligations and responsibilities within the
Tenant’s Role: When a family selects a housing unit, and the HA approves the unit
and lease, the family signs a lease with the landlord for at least one year. The tenant
may be required to pay a security deposit to the landlord. After the first year the
landlord may initiate a new lease or allow the family to remain in the unit on a month-to-month lease.
When the family is settled in a new home, the family is expected to comply with the
lease and the program requirements, pay its share of rent on time, maintain the unit in
good condition and notify the HA of any changes in income or family composition.
Landlord’s Role: The role of the landlord in the voucher
program is to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing to a tenant at a reasonable
rent. The dwelling unit must pass the program’s housing standards and be maintained
up to those standards as long as the owner receives housing assistance payments. In
addition, the landlord is expected to provide the services agreed to as part of the lease
signed with the tenant and the contract signed with the HA.
Housing Authority’s Role: The HA administers the voucher
program locally. The HA provides a family with the rental assistance that enables the
family to seek out suitable housing and the HA enters into a contract with the landlord
to provide rental assistance payments on behalf of the family. If the landlord fails to
meet his/her obligations under the lease, the HA has the right to terminate assistance
HUD’s Role: To cover the cost of the program, HUD provides funds to allow HAs to make housing assistance payments on behalf of the families. HUD also pays the HA a fee for the costs of administering the program. When additional funds become available to assist new families, HUD invites HAs to submit applications for funds for
additional rental vouchers. Applications are then reviewed and funds
awarded to the selected HAs on a competitive basis.