What is Section 8?

Many families in the U.S. live below their means. Sometimes jobs are hard to find and low-income families must endure life’s difficult circumstances and live in unsanitary houses with unfit conditions. House renting and apartment renting are different throughout the U.S. and may even differ greatly from one area to another. Usually, low- income families often have to choose cheaper rental units in dangerous or crime-infested neighborhoods because they simply cannot afford to pay more than half of their income for a better place.

Other types of citizens struggling to find a good home are disabled persons who cannot work or elderly citizens who do not have enough finances to afford a decent home. The Section 8 Housing Program was created for these exact reasons to help these categories of citizens upgrade their standard of living by helping them pay a portion of the rent. Doing so will leave them with more money to spend on other necessities such as food and clothing.


Supported by federal funds, the Section 8 Housing Program provides financial assistance for low-income families through a Housing Choice Voucher. The voucher is administered through the public housing agencies (PHAs) and is basically a certain amount of money that an applicant receives to pay rent for a rental unit of choice. The Section 8 housing assistance does not pose limitations to applicants in terms of neighborhoods or types of units, but it does establish certain limits when it comes to rent amount, among other things.


To be eligible for the program, you must earn less than 50 percent of the median income in the county, area or community in which you wish to live. As this median income is different everywhere, you must consider the location where you would like to live carefully. Upon applying, you will be put on a waiting list and wait for your name to come first in order to be given a voucher. The waiting list is very long and it can even take years before you are considered. If you are, the PHA will confirm your eligibility and issue you a voucher.

Looking for a home may be a daunting task, especially if you have always lived in substandard housing. With the housing voucher, you have a personal choice to select the home you find the best suited for you and your family. Search through property listings, or walk around the neighborhood you like and see if there are any Section 8 housing rentals there. When you find a landlord who agrees to rent under the program, you will make a contract stating the terms and conditions of your stay, as well as the rent amount. The PHA will then come to inspect the unit for cleanliness, sanitary conditions and other quality measures. Should it meet these requirements, you will be allowed to become a tenant. The PHA will then pay its portion of the rent, which is the difference between the total rent and the amount you pay (30 percent of your income).