Learn About Section 8 Housing in the U.S.

The Section 8 Housing Program, also called the Housing Choice Voucher Program, is a federally funded government assistance program intended to help low- and moderate-income families in the United States find a rental home. Regarding what qualifies you for Section 8 housing, the most important eligibility requirement for the program is the family’s gross annual income, but many other factors also contribute to the final decision. As the program is one of the most popular and sought-after in the country, many states have decided to close their waiting lists and no longer receive applications. Participants in the Section 8 Program must also continue to meet the eligibility requirements in order to keep receiving assistance. In some instances, the program requirements include additional special programs in which families must be included to achieve financial independence and reach their career or educational goals.

If you are still wondering about eligibility requirements, or asking yourself “what is the eligibility income for section 8 applications?”, read the sections listed below:

  • Who qualifies for Section 8 housing?
  • What is the eligibility income for Section 8 applications?


To meet eligibility for low income housing, families must meet the annual gross income limit set by each state. The Section 8 Housing program was designed for low-income families who are unable to pay rent. Families must continuously meet program requirements in order to remain eligible and receive continuous assistance. What qualifies you for Section 8 housing is not only your family income, but also additional factors such as:

  • Your family size
  • Your family composition
  • Your personal history
  • Your assets
  • Your citizenship or legal immigrant status
  • Your eviction history

Income limits vary from one county to the next and are based on family size. For instance, a family of one may be considered extremely low income if the individual earns around $15,000 per year and a family of eight that earns $30,000 a year will also fall under the extremely low income category. Typically, HUD prioritizes extremely low-income families, but there may be some low-income families that are given preference, especially if they have been continually assisted by public housing programs in the past.

To estimate your complete eligibility, the PHA will gather information about you from various institutions, such as banks, local agencies, employers and more. A family’s spending habits, lifestyle or drug usage may also be reviewed and taken into consideration regarding eligibility for low income housing. If you are considered eligible, the PHA will determine the amount of payment you can receive for a Section 8 rental home. Find out if you are eligible here.


To learn what are the requirements for Section 8 housing, applicants must be familiar with the income limits for the program set by public housing agencies. Low-income families in the United States are the main category of Section 8 housing applicants. Public housing authorities classify families according to their income in order to determine who can be given preference. Thus, the PHA divides families into extremely low income, very low income and low income.

Extremely low-income families are considered those who earn 30 percent of the median area income, very low-income families earn 50 percent of the median area income, while low-income families earn 80 percent of the median area income. Depending on the family size, the family’s gross annual income must be lower than the area’s median income for a family to be eligible.According to the PHA, a family is defined as:

  • A group of individuals that constitute a household (with or without children).
  • Elderly citizens older than 62 who constitute a family.
  • A single individual with or without children.
  • A displaced family, where one or more family members have been displaced at some point of time.

If a family’s income does not exceed 30 percent of the median area income, the PHA must provide 75 percent of all available vouchers to these families. Median area income numbers represent the eligibility income for section 8 applications and are published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. These vary from location to location within a state and if you would like to know what is the minimum income for Section 8 in your area, contact your nearest community public housing agency.

Public Housing Agencies are the ones who determine family income. If the final estimation does not exceed the income limit, the family is considered eligible to apply for Section 8 housing voucher and is placed under the appropriate income category. Some sources of income can be excluded from the calculations.

Section 8 Housing program applicants must be United States citizens or legal immigrants with a regulated status. Additionally, they may be asked to provide documents to prove their citizenship. Valid documents include a U.S. passport, Social Security card, resident alien card, registration card or other appropriate documentation. Families where all members are U.S. citizens will be eligible for full housing assistance. However, families whose members are not U.S. citizens or do not have legal immigration status are ineligible to apply. If a family is constituted from members who are U.S. citizens and members who do not have a legal residence status, the family is considered mixed and is eligible for prorated assistance, calculated on the basis of the number of family members who are legal U.S. citizens.

Also note that meeting all eligibility low income housing requirements does not mean you will immediately start to receive benefits. Your name will be put on a waiting list and when it is your turn, payments will be sent to you through a housing voucher issued by the PHA.