What Is Section 8?
The federal government has set up a program to provide affordable housing to Americans who are disabled, elderly, or living in poverty. The Housing Choice Vouchers Program, more commonly known as Section 8 housing, gives families in financial need the ability to meet the monthly lease fee on apartments or houses around the country. These residences are not limited to subsidized housing projects, but families or individuals must meet several qualifications. These services are administered at the local level through municipal public housing agencies, and it is these agencies that verify the eligibility for both potential tenants and residences for participation.
The Rochester Development Group has a thorough knowledge of the requirements needed to gain approval as a Section 8 housing provider. We own properties that fit the financial needs of both low-income families and those looking for section 8 assistance. Our properties follow the guidelines outlined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and for New York properties, a Housing Quality Standards Inspection is required before tenants are allowed to occupy a property. These requirements ensure that an affordable housing opportunity does not compromise on quality and safety. Our group is also required to abide by nondiscrimination laws, proving equal opportunities for citizens across the state. Eligibility requirements for tenants can be found by visiting the website of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Eligibility typically requires that individuals be in need of safe, decent, or sanitary housing and have a qualifying low income.
With the Housing Choice Voucher Program, households on a very low income are able to find affordable housing through privately owned residences that have been made available for rent. The local municipal housing authorities are the ones that reimburse the landlord of the difference in amount when calculating 30% of the household incomes and the PHA-determined payment standards for the property. These standards are estimated at between 80% to 100% of the fair market rent.
In order for property owners to take part in the program and list their units as Section 8 eligible, the rent for the unit must be reasonable. Tenants do have the option of choosing a home where the rent is higher than the Fair Market Value, but in this case, they must pay the difference to the landlord on their own. They also have the option to choose a lower-cost unit and pocket the difference. There are several websites and online databases that make it easier for tenants to search for qualified housing units or properties.
Though established at the federal level, HUD relies on government agencies or the municipal’s PHA to validate and ensure that all parties involved in the Section 8 voucher program are in compliance with all regulatory guidelines. An important part of these assessments is conducting inspections on potential housing units to verify they follow HUD quality standards. Initial standards for passing an inspection allow no more than 12 violations before the inspection is terminated and the property owner must make repairs or adjustments before a second inspection will be given. If the unit does not pass inspection or the inspection is never scheduled, the tenant must choose another unit and the local PHA moves on.
The housing authority issues a voucher to households that qualify based on their income, and an individual must then search and select a residence for approval. This is when the inspection first takes place. If the desired residence, whether a house or apartment, is considered an eligible property and passes inspection, the PHA pays the landlord for the remaining rent costs. There is a payment standard determined for the geographical location of the unit, and the monthly rental costs must be reasonable and comparable to equivalent properties on the market that don’t qualify for assistance. Upon their application, tenants qualify for a specific voucher amount. There is a maximum amount of housing assistance allowed for qualified recipients. This could be based on the payment standards minus 30% of the family’s monthly adjusted incomes or the gross rent of the unit minus 30% of the monthly adjusted incomes. The allowance is often based on the lesser amount between the two options.
The local PHA that oversees the housing and Section 8 program will determine which individuals or households are eligible for a housing voucher. There are several factors that have an impact on immediate eligibility. First and foremost, this program is limited to U.S. citizens and very specific categories of non-citizens who may qualify through their immigration status. Eligibility also takes into account the size of the family and the total annual gross income. A general stipulation across the nation is that the family’s income may not be greater than 50% of the average income for the metropolitan area or county where the family chooses to live. Under current laws, a PHA has to provide at least 75% of available vouchers to the applicants whose income is 30% or less of the median income for the geographic location. HUD established these median income boundaries, and they vary by location. The local PHA is able to advise applicants on the income limits for a location and the family size needed to qualify for them.
Eligibility doesn’t guarantee voucher assistance. It is common for eligible households to be put on a waiting list. The local market conditions have an effect on how long the wait may be. The PHA has the freedom to create its own process for selecting applications from the waiting list, and they are also able to close the list if there are too many applicants already waiting for aid. For those who are denied eligibility, the PHA must notify the applicant in writing and include an explanation of why. It is possible to appeal this decision.
The Housing Choice Voucher Program doesn’t regulate where a family must live. A family taking part in the program is able to look for an available rental that will best fit the size and needs of the household. The voucher program does specify limits on the size of the residence, but these are established based on the size and composition of the family. As the potential tenants search for a property, approval isn’t guaranteed simply because the residence is eligible for Section 8 assistance. The rental unit selected must be able to meet the minimum requirements for health and safety before the PHA will approve the unit for rental assistance under the program. The voucher tenant must have reached an agreement with the landlord concerning the rental terms of the unit before the PHA will inspect the unit. During this time, the PHA will also evaluate whether the monthly rental rate that was established is reasonable and in keeping with the market average for a similar unit.
The reasonable payment standard should be determined prior to a tenant’s search for housing, and these standards take into account the amount of money generally required for a moderately priced residence in the local real estate market that meets the needs of a certain household size. The local market rate then influences how much housing assistance a family may be qualified to receive. The market rate does not put any limits on how much rent a landlord is allowed to charge for a unit or what a family is allowed to pay. The requirements of the program state that families with housing vouchers must pay a minimum of 30% of the monthly adjusted gross income for both rent and utilities. If the unit a family decides upon has a rental fee that is greater than the payment standard determined for the local market, the family is responsible for the additional amount. The 30% minimum is not a cap on payments. However, the law also requires that a family may not pay more than 40% of the adjusted monthly income toward a rental unit payment.
The housing needs of families change over time, due to job changes, family additions or losses, or a number of other reasons. The housing program allows families to relocate without losing their rental assistance. The family has to notify the PHA prior to the move, terminate any existing lease according to the lease provisions, and locate new housing for approval. Voucher recipients are able to select a new unit anywhere in the U.S. so long as the family had lived within the jurisdiction of the PHA that issued the initial voucher. It is best to confer directly with the PHA in the jurisdiction where a move is planned to verify moving requirements and processes.
Once a residence has been approved by the PHA for leasing, the voucher family must sign a minimum of a one-year lease term with the landlord. Depending on the term of the lease, a landlord may require the tenant to pay a security deposit. After the year has passed, a tenant and landlord may agree to a new lease term or a tenant can stay on a month-to-month lease. Tenants must abide by the rules of their lease contract, paying their rental fee on time, maintaining the condition of the unit, and notifying the proper agencies when there are changes in their income or family size. If tenants are found to have violated any of the lease terms or they have failed to maintain accuracy in reporting, their eligibility for the program may be terminated.
Housing Authority Responsibilities
When a property has been approved through the voucher program, the PHA and landlord enter into a contract with the PHA providing the housing assistance payment. Landlords must meet their lease obligations or the PHA may terminate the agreed-upon assistance payments. The PHA is also required to evaluate and update family size and income each year, as well as inspect each rental unit to ensure that it still meets HUD guidelines for program participation. It is HUD that ultimately provides the funds to the local PHAs for housing assistance payments. The PHA is monitored at the federal level for program compliance.
Through the Section 8 program, those who have an extremely low income have greater access to decent, safe, and affordable housing. The properties of the Rochester Development Group provide families with the greatest finanical needs quality residence opportunities in Rochester and the surrounding communities.