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.

To qualify for Section 8, you must:

  • Have very low income (less than 50% of the area median income)
    • Not all income is counted. Example: The earned income of children under 18 and of dependents over 18 who are full-time students is not counted.
  • Not own a home your family could live in
  • Have less than $100,000 in countable assets (not all assets are counted)
    • ABLE accounts, Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) accounts, retirement accounts, some types of trusts, and personal property with a combined value of less than $50,000 are not counted.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible immigrant. Eligible immigrants include permanent legal residents, refugees, asylees, and lawful temporary residents.

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:

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

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.

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:

If your disability makes any part of the application process difficult for you, you are entitled to ask the housing authority 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

If you qualify for the Section 8 program, and you or someone in your household has a mental illness, the Bridges Program for People with Serious Mental Illness may be able to help you. The Bridges program is a State of Minnesota program designed to help people with serious mental illness by providing rental assistance for housing while they are waiting for a Section 8 voucher.

The Bridges program is run by the same local PHAs and HRAs that run the Section 8 program. Because the Bridges program helps people that are waiting for a Section 8 voucher, the eligibility rules are very similar to the rules for the Section 8 program itself.

The main difference is that to become part of the Bridges program you have to have a mental illness and you have to get a referral from a mental health provider.

The Housing Support (formerly Group Residential Housing) program helps pay for room and board in authorized locations for people with low income who have disabilities or other conditions. Housing Support may also help pay for additional services if you are not eligible for MA-Waiver programs or personal care assistance (PCA) services through MA.

To get Housing Support, you must be over age 65 or have a disabling condition. To qualify, you must have either:

  1. A General Assistance (GA) basis of eligibility, or
  2. A Supplemental Security Income (SSI) basis of eligibility.

For both, you need to live in a location approved by Housing Support.

The eligibility rules for Housing Support are not exactly the same as for GA or SSI. Most people who get Housing Support also get GA or SSI, but some people qualify for Housing Support even though they do not actually get GA or SSI cash benefits. Read more about the Housing Support eligibility rules.

You can apply for Housing Support online using MNbenefits or fill out the Combined Application Form and turn it in to your county or tribal human services office. Note on your application that you are requesting Housing Support and the name, address, and telephone number of the location where you plan to live. If you do not mention that you are applying for Housing Support, the county may not check if you are eligible. For help applying, contact your county or tribal human services office or Chat with a Hub expert.

Public housing is rental housing for low-income people that is owned and managed by a local government agency. Eligibility requirements are usually the same as for the Section 8 voucher program.

To qualify for public housing, you must:

  • Have low income
    • Not all income is counted. Example: The earned income of children under 18 and of dependents over 18 who are full-time students is not counted.
  • Not own a home your family could live in
  • Have less than $100,000 in countable assets (not all assets are counted)
    • ABLE accounts, Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) accounts, retirement accounts, some types of trusts, and personal property with a combined value of less than $50,000 are not counted.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or be an eligible immigrant. Eligible immigrants include permanent legal residents, refugees, asylees, and lawful temporary residents.

Public housing is operated by local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs), and Housing Redevelopment Authorities (HRAs). You apply to the local housing authority to get on their waiting list. Waiting lists for public housing may be very long. Also, there might only be a few of the type or size of housing that you would like. It is a good idea to apply to several waiting lists in order to improve your chances of getting housing.

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

Local housing authorities provide rental assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS and their families through the HOPWA program. The State of Minnesota also has HOPWA funds available to provide short-term rent, mortgage, and utility payment assistance.

To receive housing assistance through a local or state HOPWA program:

  1. At least one individual in your household must have AIDS or a related disease (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or HIV infection.)
  2. Your household must have low or moderate income.

To get HOPWA rental assistance you should ask your HIV case manager for a referral.

If you are participating in the Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA) or Housing Support (formerly Group Residential Housing) programs, additional funds may be available to you through the MSA program. To request help through the MSA program, contact your county or tribal human services office.

The Crisis Housing Assistance Program can help you pay for housing costs if you are hospitalized for mental illness or substance abuse treatment, and you are living in your own home, or a rental unit that is not part of a government assistance program.

Your hospital or treatment facility can help you apply for the Crisis Housing Assistance Program. If you are approved, the payments are sent directly to person or agency you owe them to, like your landlord, mortgage company, or utility company.

Your Section 8 or public housing benefits are related to your family income: the more you make, the more rent you pay. Earned income is treated the same as unearned income, so if your earnings go up by $500 per month, your rent would go up by about 30% of that ($150 per month). However, the exact timing of when your rent changes depends on various things (it might not go up for months).

If you are making more money by working and your share of rent goes up, check with your public housing authority (PHA) about the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. If the FSS program is an option for you, it will take the increased money that you are spending on rent and set it aside for your family. Later, you can spend this money on something, like for the down payment on a home or car.

The bottom line: You’re better off if you earn more because your rent won’t go up as much as your earnings. Learn more about how work affects housing benefits and about the FSS program.

Note: Before 2024, a rule called the Earned Income Disregard (EID) meant that rent wouldn't go up as much for the first two years after a family member with a disability started working. This still helps people whose EID started before 2024, but no new people can get an EID.

The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program helps families who get help with their rent from HUD-funded programs and whose whose income goes up because of work.

When the family income goes up and the program starts paying less for rent, the FSS program takes the money that it saves on rent and sets that money aside for the family. The family can use these savings for purchases, such as the down payment on a home or a car.

The FSS program can help people who get help from programs like:

You apply for the FSS through your public housing authority (PHA) or your housing provider. Learn more about the FSS program.

Yes. If you are a current Section 8 voucher recipient or a current public housing tenant, you may be eligible for assistance in buying your own home. The Section 8 program can help you by providing homebuyer education, mortgage readiness counseling, and down payment and closing cost assistance.

The basic idea of the Section 8 Homeownership Program is to use the money from a regular Section 8 rental voucher to help a family buy a home or meet monthly homeownership expenses.

Not all housing authorities offer the homeownership option as part of their voucher program.

In order to use the program, you have to have a Section 8 voucher. If you do not currently have a voucher, you must go through the same application process as if you wanted to apply for a Section 8 rental voucher. Once you have a voucher, and if your housing authority offers the Section 8 Homeownership Program, you can begin looking for a housing unit to buy.

Once you find a housing unit to buy, the housing authority will make the monthly homeownership assistance payment for you. The housing authority may make the payment to the lender directly or to your household.

The amount of the subsidy for the homeownership program is the same amount as your rental voucher would have been.

If you are having trouble paying your mortgage, or you are already facing foreclosure, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers resources that can help:

When you call 1-888-995-HOPE you will receive absolutely free foreclosure prevention counseling by expert counselors at HUD-approved agencies. When you call you will get help immediately - the counselors themselves answer the phone.

Learn more