Housing

Frequently Asked Questions

Section 8 is a program that helps people with very low income pay for housing. It can help you get an apartment or buy a home. With Section 8, you usually pay about 30% to 40% of your monthly household income for rent. The federal government pays the rest.

To qualify for Section 8, you must:

  • Have a very low household income
  • Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible immigrant. Eligible immigrants include permanent legal residents, refugees, asylees, and lawful temporary residents
  • Not have had problems in the past with federally-funded housing programs, such as being evicted or committing fraud

To get Section 8, you have to apply at your local public housing authorities (PHAs). Most PHAs have waiting lists, so it’s important to apply to more than one PHA.

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

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has the income limits for your situation.

No. To be eligible for Section 8 there is no maximum on the value of the assets you own. However, when the housing authority figures out your income, it counts some of your assets as income.

Note: The growth of the investments in an ABLE account is not counted as income. Learn more about ABLE accounts.

The public housing authority looks at your entire application to see if you qualify, so make sure to fill out the forms completely and carefully. You may be more likely to qualify for Section 8 if you:

  • Have a disability
  • Have children
  • Are age 62 or older
  • Are a U.S. Armed Services veteran, widow, or widower
  • Are experiencing homelessness
  • Are in a shelter

The housing choice voucher program (also called “tenant-based Section 8”) lets you choose any apartment you want, as long as it meets the size and price requirements given to you by your public housing authority.

In Section 8 project-based housing, the local housing authority works directly with the owner of a specific housing unit to make it available to people in the Section 8 program. When one of these privately-owned apartments is empty, the housing authority offers it to someone on the waiting list for Section 8 housing.

Project-based rental assistance provides the same amount of financial assistance as the voucher program, and the application and eligibility requirements are also the same. A big difference between project-based rental assistance and the Section 8 voucher program is that it is not always possible to keep your project-based rental assistance when you move.

Yes, you should apply to more than one public housing authority (PHA), because most have waiting lists to get Section 8 benefits. Unfortunately, some waiting lists are “closed.” That means that the PHA won’t even let you apply. However, you can apply to any housing authority that has an “open” list. By applying to more than PHA, you are more likely to start getting Section 8 benefits sooner — so be sure apply to all of the housing authorities located in areas where you’d be willing to live, and that have “open” waiting lists. (Most housing authorities give preference to people who already live in their areas, so if you apply to a program that isn’t in the area where you live, you may have to wait longer to get a voucher.)

Find your local public housing authorities (PHAs) or use the HUD Resource Locator.

When you are selected from the waiting list for a Section 8 housing choice voucher:

  1. You go through a screening process to make sure you meet the eligibility requirements for the program.
  2. If you pass the screening, you must attend a meeting at the housing authority, called a “Section 8 Briefing.”
  3. After the briefing, you have 60 to 120 days (two to four months), to find a rental unit that is affordable and where the landlord accepts the voucher.

When you are selected from the waiting list for Section 8 project-based housing or public housing, you are offered affordable housing in a specific unit. You won’t get to choose the unit you rent.

Yes. If your disability makes any part of the application process difficult for you, you can ask for a reasonable accommodation to help you have a chance to participate in the program. Reasonable accommodations could include things like help filling out the application, being given extra time to find rental housing, or assistance finding housing that meets your needs.

If a waiting list is “closed,” you can’t apply. You need to find other housing agencies in the area that have “open” waiting lists. Find local public housing authorities.

Tell the housing authority immediately. If the housing authority tries to contact you but can’t find you, they might decide that you don’t want Section 8 and take you off their waiting list. Most housing authorities do not request the post office to forward mail, so it’s very important that you give the housing authority correct contact information.

The housing authority itself is the best source of help with the application. If you decide to get help from someone else, remember that no one should ever charge you for a Section 8 application; it’s illegal to sell a Section 8 application or voucher.

You can talk to the housing authority about their decision. However, the housing authority is not required to offer an informal hearing for applicants on every administrative decision. You can also appeal their decision. When you are told that you have been turned down, the housing authority is required to tell you how you can appeal. If you wish to appeal, you should do it quickly, because there is a time limit for appealing.

Ask the housing authority for a list of available property owners in its area, and check ColoradoHousingSearch.com for apartments in your area.

Yes. Section 8 can give you homebuyer education and mortgage readiness counseling, and may even help you with your down payment, closing costs, and/or mortgage payments. However, not all housing authorities offer this program.

To qualify for this program, called the Section 8 Homeownership Program, you must:

  • Be a current Section 8 voucher program participant or eligible for it
  • Not currently own a home or have owned one in the last three years
  • Not received homeownership help in the past or defaulted on a mortgage
  • Attend and complete a homeownership counseling program
  • Have full-time employment, if you are not disabled or elderly

Not all public housing authorities (PHAs) let you use a voucher to buy a home. If you already have a Section 8 voucher, ask the local PHAs to see if you can use it for homeownership. If you want to buy a home and don’t have a voucher yet, apply for vouchers at housing agencies that allow homeownership.

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. You must:

  • Have a low household income
  • Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible immigrant. Eligible immigrants include permanent legal residents, refugees, asylees, and lawful temporary residents
  • Not have had problems in the past with federally-funded housing programs, such as being evicted or committing fraud

To apply for public housing, contact your local public housing authorities (PHAs) or use the HUD Resource Locator.

Waiting lists for public housing may be long, so to improve your chances of getting housing soon, apply to several housing authorities in the area where you want to live.

For help finding housing while homeless:

If you or a member of your household is living with HIV/AIDS and your household has low income, you may be able to get help with housing costs through the HOPWA program. HOPWA can help with short-term rent and utility payment assistance.

For details, contact your local public housing authorities (PHAs).

Not necessarily. Many housing programs have a rule called the Earned Income Disregard (EID) that stops the rent from being increased for the first year after a family member with a disability starts working.

An Earned Income Disregard (EID) is when your public housing authority doesn’t count your income when you first start a job. This means that if you get help with your rent from a housing program and then start working, your rent stays the same for a year, even though you are earning more money. During your second year on the job, your housing authority counts only half of the increase in your income caused by your earnings, so your rent doesn’t go up by as much. This rule means that you can get a job without having to worry about your rent going up immediately.

To qualify for an Earned Income Disregard, you must either:

Note: If you were already working before your earnings went up, the EID may not apply. For detailed information on this, see Module 5 of the WIPA & Community Partner Work Incentives Counseling Training Manual.

If you are having trouble paying your mortgage, there are several programs that can help:

Learn more