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On Section 8 – the Largest Housing Assistance Program in the US (June 21, 2024)

© International Foundation for World Freedom

Dr. Jingyu Fan, Ph.D. Economics and B.A. Mathematics



This article introduces the Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) Program Section 8, the

largest and most successful housing assistance program in the US. We will walk

through what Section 8 is, who can / how to apply for it, and how it works. (While

Section 8 may also be used to assist with home purchase if authorized by the local

housing agency, below we focus on describing its function on home rental assistance.)


What is Section 8? Section 8 is initiated by the U.S. Department of Housing and

Urban Development (HUD) to assist low-income families, the elderly, and persons with

disabilities with home rental. It is provided in the form of a voucher that directly pays

part of your rent.


Who administers Section 8? In practice, over 2400 local public housing agencies

(PHA) across the US receive funding from HUD to administer Section 8 locally. See the

California PHA contact list here.


For instance, Los Angeles County has 19 PHAs in total – 18 cities have their own

PHAs, the rest are under the Los Angeles County Development Authority (LACDA). See

the list of the 18 cities here.



In this article, we will describe the general rules of Section 8, supplemented by more

detailed rules under the PHA for the City of Los Angeles – the Housing Authority of the

City of Los Angeles (HACLA). If you reside in other counties / cities in California or other

states, please check the specific policies at your local PHA.


Eligibility. We present the general eligibility requirements on applicants’ immigration

status, income, and house standard. An applicant is a household.


Immigration Status: US citizens and non-citizens with eligible immigration status can

apply. Under HACLA, mixed families where at least one member has eligible

immigration status are also considered.


Income: Generally, only extremely-low-income families and very-low-income families are

eligible to apply. Additionally, it is required by law that 75% of Section 8 vouchers must

be provided to extremely-low-income families. See here for HACLA’s latest income

limits for different family categories.


House Standard: The house you rent using Section 8 vouchers should meet the size

limit in accordance with your family’s size and composition, as well as the health and

safety requirements. Watch the video “Finding a Rental Unit” here for HACLA’s housing

quality standard (HQS).


Application Procedure


Step 1: Contact your local PHA to learn more about Section 8, verify your eligibility, and

apply. Successful applicants will be put on the waiting list.

- You will be asked to submit the income verification for all your family members. Watch

HACLA’s instructional video “Submitting Your Section 8 Documents” here.

- Section 8 application is highly competitive – sometimes people wait for years on the

waiting list! So, it is very important to keep your information (income / contact) updated.

Depending on the PHA, certain people may have priority (exp. local residency, disability,

AIDS, homeless, etc.).


Step 2: After you receive the voucher, choose a house where the landlord agrees to

participate in Section 8.

- Under HACLA, you and the landlord must complete the Request for Tenancy Approval

(RFTA). Watch the video “Housing Choice Voucher Issuance” here for detailed to-dos.

- Under HACLA, your voucher will expire if not used within 180 days. While extension can

be granted in some cases, it cannot exceed 240 days.

- You may use the partnered housing search engine AffordableHousing.com to find a

qualified house.


Step 3: The PHA conducts inspection on the house and determines the payment

standard (that is, how much they will pay for your rent).


- HACLA allows remote inspection. Watch “Remote Video Inspections” here for guidelines

on how to prepare for it.


Step 4: You and the landlord sign the lease. The PHA and the landlord sign the housing

assistance payments contract.


Payment Standard.


We will illustrate Section 8’s payment standard with HACLA’s

policy. You may also watch the video “How Rent Is Calculated” here to learn about it.



Each month, HACLA pays the housing assistance payment (HAP) towards your rent. Its

amount is determined by the following simple subtraction rule:


HAP = minimum of your monthly rent and VPSTTP


Your monthly rent is the monthly rent of the house you live in, including both contract

rent and utility allowance.


VPS (the voucher payment standard) is how much HACLA estimates your highest

monthly rent can be based on your family size.


TTP (the total tenant payment) is how much HACLA believes you are responsible to pay

for your rent each month based on your income.


In summary, if your monthly rent is lower than VPS, you only need to pay TTP towards

your rent each month. If your monthly rent exceeds VPS, you need to pay both the

excess amount (your monthly rent – VPS) and TTP towards your rent each month.



Below we will explain how VPS and TTP are calculated.


VPS is determined by the number of bedrooms you qualify for based on your family size

(the occupancy standard). The more members there are in your family, the more

bedrooms you qualify for, and the larger your VPS is.


- Here is a table that matches family size with qualified bedroom number (under the

question “How many bedrooms will I qualify for?”).


- Here is a table that matches qualified bedroom number with VPS.


- Caution: If the house you rent has fewer bedrooms than your qualified bedroom number,

then the actual number of bedrooms in your house is used to determine your VPS

instead of your qualified bedroom number.


TTP is typically either 10% of your monthly gross income or 30% of your monthly

adjusted income (gross income minus tax and deductions), depending on which one is

higher. By law, TTP never exceeds 40% of your monthly adjusted income.



Here are some examples to help you better understand the Section 8

payment standard.


Example 1: A couple with 5 children lives in a 3-bedroom condo. The family has monthly

gross income of $4,000 and monthly adjusted income of $2,800. Their monthly rent is

$3,000.


- There are 7 people in the family, so the qualified bedroom number is 4 (see here). Since

the family has 3 bedrooms, which is fewer than 4, the actual number of bedrooms 3 is

used to determine VPS = $3,915 (see here). Since 30% of the family’s monthly adjusted

income ($2,800 * 30% = $540) is higher than 10% of their monthly gross income ($4,000

* 10% = $400), TTP equals 30% of their monthly adjusted income: TTP = $540. Since

the family’s monthly rent ($3,000) is lower than VPS ($3,915), HAP is determined by

their monthly rent: HAP = their monthly rent – TTP = $3,000 – $540 = $2,460. So, each

month, HACLA pays HAP = $2,460 towards the family’s rent, and the family pay the rest

of the rent themselves, which is TTP = $540.



Example 2: A single person lives in a 2-bedroom apartment. Her monthly gross income

is $2,700. Her monthly adjusted income is $2,000. Her monthly rent is $3,500.


- For a single-person family, the qualified bedroom number is 1 (see here). Since the

person has 2 bedrooms, which is more than 1, the qualified bedroom number 1 is used

to determine VPS = $2,407 (see here). Since 30% of the person’s monthly adjusted

income ($2,000 * 30% = $600) is higher than 10% of her monthly gross income ($2,700

* 10% = $270), TTP equals 30% of her monthly adjusted income: TTP = $600. Since

VPS ($2,407) is lower than the person’s monthly rent ($3,500), HAP is determined by

VPS: HAP = VPS – TTP = $2,407 – $600 = $1,807. So, each month, HACLA pays HAP

= $1,807 towards the person’s rent, and she pays the rest of the rent herself, which

includes both TTP ($600) and the part of her rent exceeding VPS: her monthly rent –

VPS = $3,500 – $2,407 = $1,093. The person’s total monthly payment towards her rent

is $600 + $1,093 = $1,693.


Moving. You can move anywhere in the US without loss of your voucher, but certain

restrictions may apply. Before you move, you need to notify the PHA, terminate the

existing lease legally, and find an acceptable house you plan to move to. Under HACLA,

you must use the voucher to live within the HACLA’s jurisdiction for at least 1 year

before moving. See here for HACLA’s contact information regarding moving.


Other Resources


AffordableHousing.com: Many PHAs nationwide partner with this website to

facilitate the administering of Section 8. You can use the website to learn more

about and apply for Section 8, look for housing, and find local housing agencies.


HACLA

o Contact: 866-466-7328. Available Mon-Fri, 6am-5pm PST.

o The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program helps families participating in

Section 8 with their career development and job search. Call 833-422-

5248 for details.


 If you reside in LA County and don’t currently hold a Section 8 voucher, you can

visit Housing.LACounty.gov to search for affordable housing.



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