New York is an expensive city to live in. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan is $3,895. That’s roughly equal to the average monthly income of the typical American worker. If you’re one of many people in the city struggling to keep up with rent, you can take heart with knowing that there is a way to make it easier. Enter the Housing Choice Voucher program, also known as Section 8. This federally funded program is designed to help close the gap between affordability and people’s income. Read on to see if you qualify and how it works.
What is Section 8 housing?
First introduced in 1937, Section 8 is a program that provides vouchers to help low-income renters pay part of their monthly rental fees. Rental properties that accept the Housing Choice Voucher program are known as Section 8 housing. Those on the program may receive either “portable” vouchers, known as Housing Choice Vouchers, which allow them to stay in privately owned buildings. Or they might be in a project-based program in which vouchers are only available for specific properties. Once approved, you will receive your vouchers you can begin looking for section 8 housing.
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How does it work?
City, state and federal agencies administer the program. Each with their own rules and application process. These public housing agencies (PHA) receive money from the federal government to give out housing vouchers.
Depending on the PHA, you’ll have a specified number of days to find a unit that meets your requirements. GoSection8 provides a list of apartments available through housing vouchers. You will need to locate a unit within the time required. Otherwise, the voucher will expire, and you won’t be subsidized. The rental must also meet the health and safety standards set by the federal government and PHA.
Factors that influence how much you get include:
- Number of dependents, disabilities, and previous military service
- All income earned by all family members
On average, Section 8 subsidizes 70% of your rent, leaving you responsible for the remaining 30%. Should you choose to rent a unit with a higher rent than the payment standard, you’ll need to make up the difference. For instance, if you have a monthly income of $1,000 and your rent is $1,300, you’ll pay $300 a month while the PHA will pay the remaining $1,000 to your landlord. There are some PHA programs you can apply for. Unfortunately, most are currently at full capacity only available to those already on housing vouchers.
The largest Section 8 program in the country is the New York City Housing Authority. Through them, 204,000 Section 8 renters are living in 86,200 apartments throughout the five boroughs. They provide both Housing Choice Vouchers and project-based programs. At present, the income limit for a single person $33,400 while for a family of four it’s $47,700.
However, since 2009 the program has stopped accepting new applications and only deals with those already on the program.
Applicants must go through an annual re-certification process in which they must report their income and assets. You will have to report any changes within 30-days. Also, any failure to allow periodic NYCHA inspections or follow lease rules can lead to being kicked from the program.
Section 8 is also available through the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Over 9,000 landlords participate in the program through 39,000 households throughout the city. Those who are eligible must have an income below 50% of the area median income. However, the program is not available to the general public. The only way you can access it is through referrals from other programs. For instance, Emergency Housing services. Both Housing Choice vouchers and project-based programs are available. To see if you are eligible you must apply directly to the development. You can find a list of HPH developments across the city here.
A project-based program is available through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Like HPH, renters must apply to each development. You can find a list of subsidized housing through HUD here.
The Division of Housing and Community Renewal provides a housing choice voucher program. Unfortunately, like the NYCHA, the waiting list is closed due to the number of applicants and they have no plans to reopen it soon. One immediate difference between the DHCR and other programs is that they provide current voucher holders with the opportunity for homeownership. Those who qualify must have been on housing vouchers for at least a year and have never owned a house before. Participants must attend a homebuyer education class and be pre-approved for a mortgage before they can receive assistance.
As you can see, the Section 8 housing program is highly competitive with long waiting lists even once you get into the program. There may still be a certain stigma attached to Section 8 housing, but it has long been a benefit for people struggling to meet their rental payments. For those seeking to move up in life, it can offer a way to decrees stress, save money and work for a better future.