Your Guide to the 4 Section 8 Requirements

A lot of people struggle with the cost of rent. In January 2024, the average renter in America spends $1,326 per month. If someone wants affordable housing, they won’t be able to get it at that price. For instance, someone who works 40 hours per week at $15 per hour only earns $2,400 each month pre-taxes.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines affordable housing as someone spending no more than 30% of their gross income per month. This means that they must not spend more than $720 per month, in the case that they earn $2,400. That is much lower than what the average renter spends. If you can relate and find it hard to look for housing aid, you can always consider the Section 8 Housing Assistance program.

Defining The Section 8 Program

The Housing Choice Voucher program is the official title of the Section 8 program (but the program will go by both names!). Since 1974, this program has offered housing aid with rentals to people that have low income. The HUD is responsible for funding the program, but local public housing agencies (PHAs) are in charge of managing it.

True to its title, households and individuals with low income receive housing choice vouchers from the HCV program. The program pays the rental’s landlord through the voucher on behalf of the recipient. Recipients have the right to choose the rental property, but it needs to pass certain housing quality standards (HQS). Currently, there are 13 major requirements. This includes requirements on quality, performance, and acceptability of the property.

The Effectiveness of the Housing Choice Voucher Program

According to the CBPP, vouchers have decreased the rate of homelessness. It has also aided people who have limited resources for other basic needs through reduced rental prices. Unfortunately, households that use most of their income on rent do not spend as much on groceries, healthcare, and transportation as families that pay less on housing costs.

The voucher gives recipients the opportunity to pay rent that is not more than 30% of their wages. On the other hand, by law, the chosen rental property should not have a rental price where the household pays more than 40% of their adjusted income per month on rent, in the case that the property costs more than the payment standard.

Qualifying for the HCV Program

There are four main components that define whether you qualify for Section 8 or not, including:

  1. The Household Size
  2. Income Level/Limit
  3. Citizenship Status
  4. Background on Evictions

You need to meet all of the eligibility requirements to receive Section 8 approval. That being said, each requirement can allow exceptions. It is up to you to try and fit the main requirements as much as you can. Remember that each locality has its own version of the Section 8 program, even regarding eligibility.

Additionally, you should remember that once you apply and receive approval, you will probably be placed on a waiting list. A lot of people apply for assistance, but there is not enough support to help everyone. This is why there are waitlists. 

The Household Size

To be eligible for Section 8, your household needs to meet some requirements. The HUD does have a definition for “family” but they allow local PHAs to place their own “family” definition, too. This is why you should reach out to your local PHA and find out if your household is eligible. Use the following requirements as a guide to find out whether your household is eligible:

  • Your family has one or more members that are over the age of 62.
  • You have or do not have kids.
  • At least one individual or more has a disability in the household
  • Your family was displaced against their will for eligible causes.

You should know that you do not have to meet all of the requirements mentioned above. However, if you meet one requirement, you might qualify. If any changes take place in your family size, the program needs to know immediately. This could affect how much assistance you can get. For example, if you have a baby and your household size increases, you may be able to get more benefits! 

Income Level/Limit

Another component that affects Section 8 eligibility is the income level/limit. Those who apply need to have a yearly income that does not pass a certain level. The HCV program focuses on assisting people with low income. Eligible households usually must earn lower than 50% of their area’s median income (AMI). This differs from one locality to another. Make sure to contact your local PHA to know your locality’s requirements. Typically, some income sources you must present on the Section 8 application are:

  • Employment and overtime earnings
  • Bonuses and/or tips
  • Social Security payments and disability income
  • Death benefits
  • Insurance payments and unemployment benefits
  • Military wages
  • Alimony
  • Child support

Additionally, your local PHA might need to see your recent bank statements. Each PHA might ask for different documents to present.

Priority of HCV Assistance

According to the law, at least 75% of HCV recipients must have an income of less than 30% of the local AMI. The HUD specifies the income restrictions, but they will differ based on the location. Other than that, local PHAs have the ability to make preferences when they choose applicants from the waiting lists. These preferences can differ. However, some of these examples are:

  • Individuals that are homeless or live in substandard conditions
  • Families that pay higher than 50% of their earnings on rent or have been displaced against their will

Citizenship Status

To receive Section 8 assistance, only United States citizens and eligible non-citizens are eligible. This is why applicants and their household members are required to sign a certification form while they apply. These forms will declare the person’s citizenship status. On the other hand, there might be more documents that the local PHA needs, which include:

  • U.S. Passports
  • Registration and resident alien cards
  • Social Security cards

You should know that if your family has qualifying members and non-qualifying members, then you might still get benefits. However, you will only receive benefits based on how many eligible individuals there are.

Background on Evictions

Someone’s eviction background lets the local PHA know what kind of renter the recipient was. They want to know if the recipient was unreliable with their old rentals. Usually, applicants should have positive rental backgrounds to be eligible. If a landlord evicted an applicant because of a drug-related activity or other criminal activity, then the program will automatically disqualify them. Additionally, the program can disqualify an applicant, in the case that they were convicted of producing methamphetamines in federal housing.


In conclusion, the Section 8 program could be one of the best solutions to your housing problem. It is likely that you will need to wait a bit to get any financial assistance. If you are eligible, you can save a lot of money on housing costs with this program. Recipients of the Section 8 program have the option of choosing an eligible housing unit and can have the program pay a part of their housing costs like rent with housing vouchers. If you are interested in applying or have any questions, you should contact your local PHA. Good luck!