What Is the Housing Choice Voucher Program?

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What resources are available to very low-income families who would like to lease or purchase housing? These families may receive assistance through the housing choice voucher program.

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What Is the Housing Choice Voucher Program? 

The housing choice voucher program is a program available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Development. Formerly, the program was known as Section 8. 

Housing choice vouchers assist very low-income families in choosing and leasing or purchasing safe, decent, sanitary and affordable housing in the private market. Other eligible recipients for housing choice vouchers include the elderly and the disabled.

How Can I Get a Housing Choice Voucher?

Public housing agencies (PHAs) receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher program.

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Receiving a housing choice voucher is a process that incorporates candidate eligibility and completing an application. The PHA determines eligibility based on the total annual gross income and family size. The family’s income may not exceed 50% of the median income of the county or metropolitan area where the family decides to live. The PHA is required by law to provide 75% of its voucher to applicants whose incomes don’t exceed 30% of the area median income.

Depending on where you live, the median income levels may differ. You can learn more about the income limits for your area and family size from the PHA that serves your community. 

If you have determined you may be eligible for a housing choice voucher, you may apply by contacting the local PHA. Please note that only U.S. citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status are eligible to apply for a housing choice voucher.

Once your application is submitted, the PHA will collect additional information including family income, assets and family composition. This information will be verified with other local agencies, your employer and your bank. It will be used to determine program eligibility and the amount of the housing assistance payment.

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Find Out: What is SNAP & Is It The Same as Food Stamps?

What Happens if I’m Eligible for a Housing Choice Voucher?

Once your application has been submitted and the PHA determines your family is eligible for a housing choice voucher, one of two situations may happen. 

The PHA may be able to assist you immediately. If not immediately, the PHA will put your name on a waiting list. Once the PHA reaches your name on the waiting list, you’ll be contacted by the PHA and issued a housing voucher.

What Happens When I Receive a Housing Choice Voucher?

Upon receiving a housing choice voucher, the family is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of their choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program. They may choose to stay at the family’s present residence or find another unit. 

The rental unit must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by the PHA. Please note that in-person inspections, temporarily paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have resumed and increased in June for public and multifamily housing properties. Properties waiting inspection must remain patient as they wait for inspectors. In addition, housing choice voucher properties are also being inspected. If you have any questions, contact your local PHA.

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A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the PHA on behalf of the participating family. Those participating families will pay the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the housing choice voucher program. The PHA, under certain circumstances, may authorize a family to use its voucher to purchase a modest home.

Who Can I Contact for More Information?

Additional questions may be answered by contacting the PIH Customer Service Center. 

You can reach the PIH Customer Service Center by calling their toll-free number at 1-800-955-2232, Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. through 5 p.m., Eastern Standard Time (EST). They are closed on federal holidays. You may also email the Public Housing’s Customer Service directly at the email address: HUD-PIHRC@ardentinc.com.

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About the Author

Heather Taylor is a senior finance writer for GOBankingRates. She is also the head writer and brand mascot enthusiast for PopIcon, Advertising Week’s blog dedicated to brand mascots. She has been published on HelloGiggles, Business Insider, The Story Exchange, Brit + Co, Thrive Global, and more media outlets. 

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