What is the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program?

Back to top
Section 8 is a housing program funded by the federal government that helps low income people pay for privately owned rental housing. The largest part of the Section 8 program is the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

Through the Section 8 program, individuals and families receive a “voucher” that can be used to pay part of the cost of their housing. The program allows people to choose where they want to live and what type of housing will be best for them.

When you are part of the program, you usually pay 30% of your monthly household income for rent and the government pays the rest directly to the landlord.

Whom do I contact for information about my local Section 8 program?

Back to top
The program is run by local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) or Housing Redevelopment Authorities (HRAs). To find the housing authority that runs the program in your area, you can use these resources:

Who is eligible for a Section 8 voucher?

Back to top
To be part of the Section 8 program you must have a low household income. You also have to be a citizen or a noncitizen with eligible immigration status. Finally, you cannot have had problems in the past with federally-funded housing programs, such as being evicted or committing fraud.

What are the income limits for my area?

Back to top
Almost all vouchers go to people with very low incomes. The exact income limits are different depending on the number of people in your household and where you live.

To check the income limits for the area where you live, look at this chart.

Does the Section 8 program have asset limits?

Back to top
There is no limit on the amount or type of assets you can own at the time you apply to the Section 8 program. However, when the housing authority figures out your annual income, it will count a portion of your assets as part of your annual income.

Do I have to be a citizen to qualify for the Section 8 program?

Back to top
No. To be part of the Section 8 program you have to be a citizen, or a noncitizen with eligible immigration status. Eligible immigrants include noncitizens who are permanent residents or who have official status as refugees, asylum seekers, or lawful temporary residents.

Besides income, what factors are important for getting Section 8 housing?

Back to top
Several of the housing authorities in Minnesota keep some of their Section 8 vouchers just for people with disabilities.

Other things that may help you qualify include:

  • Being age 62 or older
  • Being a U.S. Armed Services veteran, widow, or widower
  • Working more than 42 hours per week
  • Being homeless
  • Currently residing in a shelter
  • Having children

What are project-based vouchers?

Back to top
In Project-Based Section 8 housing the local housing authority has contracted directly with the owner of a housing unit to make it available for people in the Section 8 program to live in. When one of these units is empty, the housing authority will offer it to someone that is waiting for Section 8 housing.

Project-based rental assistance is different from the Section 8 voucher program because the owner of a rental unit and the housing authority have agreed in advance to make the unit available for a person with a Section 8 voucher.

Project-based rental assistance provides the same amount of financial assistance as the voucher program does. The application procedures and eligibility requirements are also the same as the general Section 8 voucher program.

A big difference between project-based rental assistance and the Section 8 voucher program is that it is not always possible to keep your rental assistance when you move.

How do I apply for Section 8 housing?

Back to top
To apply for a Section 8 housing voucher, contact the housing authority in an area you would like to live and fill out their application.

To find the housing authority that runs the program in your area, you can use these resources:

Should I apply to more than one housing authority?

Back to top
Yes. In most areas there are not enough vouchers to help everyone that wants one. After you fill out an application, you will probably be put on a waiting list. In order to shorten the time that you have to wait, you should apply to several housing authorities in the general area that you would like to live.

What happens when I am selected from the waiting list?

Back to top
When you are selected from the waiting list, you will go through a screening process to make sure you meet the eligibility requirements for the program. If you pass the screening, you must attend a meeting at the housing authority, called a Section 8 Briefing.

After the Briefing you have a short time, usually 60 to 120 days, to find a rental unit that is affordable and where the landlord will accept the voucher.

How long will I have to find housing once I get a voucher?

Back to top
Usually you will have between 60 and 120 days.

Are reasonable accommodations available to help me with the Section 8 application process?

Back to top
Yes. If your disability makes any part of the application process difficult for you, you are entitled to ask for a reasonable accommodation that will help you have a chance to participate in the program. Depending on your circumstances, reasonable accommodations may include help filling out applications, extra time to fill out applications or find rental housing, and assistance finding housing that will meet your specific needs.

You should tell the housing authority about any difficulty you are having with applying to or using the Section 8 housing program, and ask them to provide assistance.

What should I do if the housing authority waiting list for my area is closed?

Back to top
If a housing authority has a waiting list, they will only accept applications if the waiting list is “open”. Open just means that they will allow you to add your name to the list.

If the waiting list for your local housing authority is closed, you can find out which other housing authorities have open waiting lists at HousingLink's Housing Authority Waiting List.

How can I find out which waiting lists are open?

Back to top
HousingLink's Housing Authority Waiting List Report contains the most current information on the status of Section 8 voucher and Public Housing waiting lists in the Twin Cities seven-county metro area. This report is updated whenever a change in waiting list status occurs.

What should I do if I move or change my phone number after I apply to a waiting list?

Back to top
If your contact information changes you must notify the housing authority immediately. If the housing authority is unable to reach you to confirm that you are still interested in housing, or if they can’t contact you when your turn on the list comes, you may be taken off the list completely.

Who can help me with my Section 8 application?

Back to top
If you have a problem applying for a Section 8 program, the best people to help you with your application are the housing authority staff. If you get help from someone else, remember that no one should ever charge you for a Section 8 application. Anyone who sells an application or a voucher is committing a crime.

If you would like additional assistance, HousingLink has a list of other resources.

What can I do if my application for a Section 8 voucher is denied?

Back to top
If your application is denied, the housing authority has to tell you why, and how you can appeal the decision. Instructions for how to appeal will be in the letter telling you that your application was denied. Make sure to appeal the decision quickly because there will be a time limit.

What kind of apartment can I get with my voucher?

Back to top
When you receive a voucher, the housing authority will provide you with guidelines on the size and cost of housing you can rent. If you need a housing unit with more bedrooms, the amount that the housing authority will pay for rent will be higher.

The number of bedrooms that the housing authority allows you will depend on how many people are in your household and their age, sex, and relationship to each other. Depending on the medical conditions and disabilities of household members, more rooms may be provided.

For example, a common accommodation is an increase in bedroom size because of the need for a live-in aide or overnight support staff.

There are many different types of housing that you can rent with a voucher. In addition to houses and apartments, you can use a voucher to help pay for group homes, shared housing, congregate housing, single room occupancy units, and assisted living placements.

If you already have an apartment you like, you may also be able to use the voucher to help pay for it.

What will my rent be once I am in the Section 8 program?

Back to top
Usually you will pay between 30 and 40% of your household income. You may, however, end up paying a slightly lower percentage of your income depending on whether you qualify for credits related to your disability or medical expenses. The percentage you pay includes an allowance for utilities as well.

How long will my Section 8 voucher last?

Back to top
The assistance provided by the Section 8 program is designed to be long-term. As long as income or other family circumstances don’t change very much, you can keep receiving the assistance.