In the nation's capital, the District of Columbia Housing Authority is in charge of supplying housing vouchers to eligible low-income and disabled applicants. Applying for a voucher through the Housing Choice Voucher Program -- formerly known as Section 8 -- requires careful income documentation, and once you are accepted, you must re-certify your income yearly.
Be prepared for a long wait, as thousands of applicants are already on the DCHA list. Homeless families receive priority, but even they might wait to two to three years. Families currently in homes might wait a decade. At times, the wait list is closed. However, once you receive a voucher and find a rental, you can usually stay there for life, unless you violate DCHA regulations.
Housing Choice Voucher Program Basics
Under the Housing Choice Voucher Program, you pay 30 to 60 percent of your family income for rent, with DCHA paying the remainder. If the rental agreement stipulates you must pay for utilities, the percentage of income paid for rent can be lowered.
As of 2018, a family of four was considered "very low income" if they had an income of $58,600 or less and "low income" if their annual pay was $77,450 or lower.
Finding an Approved Rental
You can find your own suitable rental. If you are interested in a particular apartment or house, visit the management office or owner to see if vouchers are accepted. Any potential dwelling must meet the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's "fair market rent" standards.
It must also meet the DCHA payment standard for a unit, which is revised annually. The DCHA can also provide you with a list of apartments that accept vouchers. Once you are in your home, expect an annual DCHA inspection to ensure both the landlord -- and you -- are keeping up the place.
Using the Application Form
You can apply for housing either by mail or by calling 202-535-1706 -- the client placement department -- and making an appointment. You must have an appointment for an in-person application. You may also apply online.
The application form requires basic information such as name, address and Social Security number, but you must also provide:
- Names and Social Security numbers of any co-applicants and the children who live with you.
- Current living situation.
- Current working or education status.
- Total household income from all members of the household.
For statistical purposes, you must include your racial and ethnic background. Once you are accepted into the program, you must report any changes in income, job status or household size to the DCHA as soon as possible.
Former residents of public housing run by the DCHA, whether Section 8 or not, who owe back rent to the DCHA are ineligible until the entire balance is paid.
A graduate of New York University, Jane Meggitt's work has appeared in dozens of publications, including Sapling, Zack's, Financial Advisor, nj.com, LegalZoom and The Nest.