You Must Meet These 4 Requirements to Receive Section 8

How to Qualify for a Housing Voucher

Picture of Requirements to Receive Section 8
© The Balance, 2018

The Section 8 program is run by HUD. The purpose of this program is to grant housing choice vouchers to individuals who meet certain criteria. To even be considered to receive a voucher, the individual must meet four basic criteria which include their family status, income level, citizenship, and eviction history. Learn if you could qualify to receive Section 8.

Family Status Requirement

To be eligible to receive Section 8, you must first meet HUD's definition of family. HUD has set general guidelines as to what defines a family, but has given each Public Housing Authority- PHA- some flexibility in their exact definition of a family. Contact your local PHA to determine their exact family status qualifications.

In general, familial status means an individual or a group of people who meet any or all of the following conditions:

  • With or without children.
  • Where at least one individual is over the age of 62.
  • Where one or more individuals in the household have a disability.
  • Has been displaced from their home. This displacement could have happened due to a government action or due to damage or complete destruction caused by a natural disaster or other federally recognized disaster.
  • A tenant who remains in a unit after all other members of his or her family have left the unit. The family was already receiving Section 8.
  • A single person who does not meet any of the above criteria.

Income Level Requirement

The next Section 8 eligibility requirement is income level. Section 8 is designed to help lower-income individuals afford housing. Therefore, to qualify for a housing choice voucher, a family’s yearly income must be below a certain amount.

Three Levels:

Each year, HUD sets income limits which are broken down into three categories, extremely low income, very low income and low income. The actual income levels differ based on the area, because they are calculated as a percentage of the area’s median income level. 

  • Extremely Low Income- 30 percent of the area’s median income level.
  • Very Low Income- 50 percent of the area’s median income level.
  • Low Income- 80 percent of the area’s median income level.

Size of Family:

The income limits will also differ based on the number of people in the family. Income limits are created for families containing anywhere from one individual to eight individuals. Extremely low-income for a family of one may be $15,000 a year, but for a family of eight, $30,000 a year may be an extremely low-income level.

Priority to Extremely Low Income:

HUD grants priority for Section 8 vouchers to those who would be classified as extremely low-income levels and then to those with very low income. Low-income status is typically last in line but could be granted a Section 8 voucher if they were classified as “continuously assisted” by public housing programs or those who are in HUD-assisted homeownership programs.

How Is a Family's Income Calculated?:

To determine the yearly income of a family and whether they are eligible for Section 8, many factors are looked at. All income sources are included when calculating a family’s income. These sources include:

  • Salary
  • Overtime Pay
  • Commission
  • Tips
  • Interest or Dividends From Assets
  • Pension
  • Retirement Fund
  • Child Support
  • Alimony
  • Unemployment
  • Social Security
  • Welfare
  • Disability
  • Worker’s Compensation
  • Lottery Winnings

Additional sources of income and exclusions from income can be viewed in Exhibit 5-2 of HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Guidebook.

Citizenship Status Requirement

Section 8 vouchers will only be granted to American citizens or to those who have eligible immigrant status. To determine if you have eligible immigrant status, please consult Exhibit 5-1 in HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Guidebook.

For American citizens, the Public Housing Authority will:

  • Make you sign a declaration stating that you and all members of your “family” are American citizens.
  • Certain PHA’s will also verify each individual’s citizen status by requesting a U.S. passport, social security card, or other documentation.

For those with eligible immigrant status, the Public Housing Authority will:

  • Make you sign a declaration stating that you have eligible immigration status.
  • Have you provide INS Documents that prove your immigration status.
  • Verify your information with the INS.
  • Have you sign a form consenting to their use of the information obtained.

Families with a mix of eligible and non-eligible individuals: 

Families that are made up of individuals who are not American citizens or do not have eligible immigrant status can still be granted housing assistance. However, the amount they will receive will be based on the percentage of family members who are eligible for housing assistance.

Eviction History Requirement

Section 8 vouchers will not be granted to anyone who:

  • Has been evicted from a property within the last three years for drug-related criminal activity.
  • Has been convicted of producing methamphetamine in an assisted housing project.

Do You Have to Meet All 4 Requirements to Qualify for Section 8?

Individuals who do not meet or consent to the above four requirements are not eligible to receive a Section 8 voucher. In addition, each PHA must have laws that govern family obligations. Even if a family meets the above four criteria, housing vouchers can be denied if the family has violated any of these family obligations. For a list of family obligations, please see Exhibit 5-4 of HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Guidebook.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you apply for Section 8 housing?

Section 8 applications are handled at the state level, so contact your state's HUD office for more information about how you can apply where you live.

How much money can you have in the bank while living on Section 8 housing?

Section 8 housing eligibility is determined by income rather than existing assets. There isn't a limit on how much money you can have in a savings account, for example. However, if any of your assets earn income, such as stock dividends or interest payments, that could count toward your annual income and affect your eligibility.

How can someone lose their Section 8 housing?

Once a family moves into a home and begins using Section 8 vouchers, they are expected to remain in compliance with both the unit's lease and Section 8 guidelines. This includes paying rent on time, keeping the unit in good condition, and notifying your public housing agency whenever your income level changes. Failure to do so can result in a family losing their Section 8 eligibility.