The Section 8 Voucher program helps low-income families find safe, affordable housing. The program allows the participants to live anywhere they choose, whether it be an apartment, single-family home, mobile home or condominium, as long as the home meets certain requirements. Public housing agencies, or PHAs, administer the Section 8 program on behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Not only may HUD landlords rent their Section 8 homes to families, they may not discriminate against prospective tenants based on their familial status -- in other words, on the basis any of the characteristics HUD uses to define a family. HUD landlords must obey all state and federal fair housing laws that protect tenants against discrimination. Other protected classes under federal law are race, color, religion, gender, national origin and disability. State laws may expand this list.
Definition of a Family
HUD defines a family as being a single person or a group of people. A single person can be elderly, displaced or disabled. He may also be a child living in foster care temporarily. A group of people can consist of one or more parents with one or more children, or two or more elderly or disabled individuals living together. A single elderly or disabled person with a live-in caretaker also is considered a family. PHAs have the discretion to determine whether or not other groups of people qualify as a family on a case-by-case basis.
Eligibility for a housing voucher is based on a family's annual gross income and the size of the family. In most cases, a family's income can't be more than 50 percent of the local median income as published by HUD. Income limits, then, vary by location. The law requires that at least 75 percent of vouchers available for an area go to families whose incomes don't exceed 30 percent of the area's median income. When a family applies for a voucher, it submits information about the family members, their incomes and their assets.
Landlords interested in making their properties available to Section 8 families should contact their local PHA. If a family in the program wishes to rent the home and the landlord's normal tenant-screening process deems the family suitable, the PHA office will send an inspector to examine the property and make sure it meets HUD's standards for safety and habitability. PHA must determine that the rent amount is reasonable. After the home has passed inspection and the rent amount has been approved, the landlord signs a Housing Assistance Payments Contract with the PHA and a lease with the tenants. From that point on, the family pays its portion of rent and HUD pays the amount of the voucher, which covers the rest.
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