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What is Section 8 and how does it work?

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program is a form of government rent assistance. In 2018, upwards of 5 million people across the country lived in a household that used a voucher to help pay some or all of their rent.

When Congress established Section 8 of the Housing and Community Development Act in 1974, one of the goals was to make sure people earning low wages could find “decent housing and a suitable living environment” outside of public housing units.

Today, people who meet income requirements can apply to the program to receive a voucher when they become available. If they are approved, selected and then find an apartment or house with the voucher, their local housing authority starts sending payments directly to landlords.

The payments cover some or all of the voucher holder’s rent. On average, each household will pay somewhere between 30% and 40% of its income on rent.

        <h3>We found that good information about Section 8 is not easily available.</h3>

We spent some time reporting on how Section 8 is working as part of a series on housing with the nonprofit news organization The Connecticut Mirror. We learned that the process of getting and using a voucher to find housing is still filled with information gaps.

“Half the battle is the information piece,” said Josh Serrano, a voucher holder in Hartford, Connecticut. He and his colleagues run know-your-rights workshops for potential voucher holders.

“If you don’t know the law you can’t obey the law,” said Crystal Carter, who received a voucher through a Connecticut housing authority but struggled to find housing. She said the companies and landlords she worked with did not always know the Section 8 laws and processes, and that created problems during her housing search.

To create this guide, we spoke with dozens of people who have navigated the voucher process, as well as with property brokers, landlords, former housing authority workers, housing lawyers and housing advocates.

This guide will tell you:

The guide includes links to visit websites. If you are not able to access the internet, you can visit a local library and type this link into a browser to view the guide online:

<h3>How to find out if I should apply for a Section 8 housing voucher</h3>

To get Section 8 housing, you will need to apply for a voucher.

Before you apply, you will need to know:

How do I apply for Section 8 housing voucher?

The first step to applying for Section 8 housing is to tell the housing authority you’re interested. But, there are more people who want vouchers than there are vouchers available. Most of the time, you’ll be placed on a waitlist.

Getting on a waitlist:

Steps to take while you’re on a Section 8 waitlist:

Lawyers and former housing authority workers say that being on the waitlist doesn’t mean you should just wait until you hear something. They shared a couple of important tips:

What to do after being approved for a Section 8 housing voucher:

How do I find housing with a Section 8 housing voucher?

Once you have your voucher in hand, you should start looking for an apartment. First you get the voucher. Here’s what a voucher looks like. Yours may be different.

            <figure data-pp-id="8" data-pp-blocktype="image" class="image large left"><img alt src="" width="400" height="312"><figcaption><span class="credit">Department of Housing and Urban Development</span>
        </figcaption></figure><h3>What to know about the voucher:</h3>

Tips for the housing search:

How to apply for an apartment or house:

Once you’ve found an apartment or house that fits your needs, you should apply for a lease.

What can go wrong:

Living with a voucher

We’ve heard from people with plenty of experience in the Section 8 process. Overall, they’ve told us it’s just like living in other apartments. But there are some challenges that come up when living with a voucher that folks regularly brought up.

Here is what you need to know about living in Section 8 housing:

Other Resources:


[1] Invisible Walls — ProPublica ➤[2] Invisible Walls — ProPublica ➤[3] CT Mirror: News and In-Depth Reporting in Connecticut ➤[4] How Wealthy Towns Keep People With Housing Vouchers Out — ProPublica ➤[5] What You Need to Know About How Section 8 Really Works — ProPublica ➤[6] PHA Contact Information - HUD | / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ➤[7] Income Limits | HUD USER ➤[8] Housing for Eligible Noncitizens-Housing for Immigrants Guide - Low Income Housing Guide for Renters ➤[9] Sign in - Google Accounts ➤[10] Yahoo ➤[11] 15 Section 8 Waiting Lists Open Now & Opening Soon ➤[12] Sign Up For Our Free Affordable Housing Mailing List ➤[13][14][15] HUD Resource Locator ➤[16] Portability | / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) ➤