Subsidized Housing

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) subsidizes or pays a portion of the housing costs for low-income families and individuals. Federal subsidized housing, known as the Section 8 program, was passed by Congress in 1974. The program allowed federal housing funds to be used for the construction of new low-income housing, rehabilitation of older low-income housing or to subsidize rents in existing housing.

Under the Section 8 programs, either the housing complex is paid a "tenant-based subsidy" for making units with lower rent available, or HUD provides a subsidy directly to a family that then selects their own rental unit from the private market.

Through HUD, the federal government pays up to 70 percent of the rent for households living in subsidized housing. The renter in a subsidized housing development typically pays rent equal to 30 percent of income, after deductions.

No person or household is entitled to housing. Subsidized housing is limited and is occupied as it becomes available. To qualify for subsidized housing, a person must be below a set income limit, which varies by household size and location. Because only a limited number of subsidized units are available, after a qualified person applies he is put on a waiting list until there is a vacancy.

What is Section 8 housing?

Section 8 housing is low-income housing. However, there are two very different programs. One Section 8 program distributes rental vouchers to households that cover a portion of their rent. The family gets to choose where it wants to live and use the voucher to pay for part of the rent.

The second Section 8 program concerns the housing development itself. The entire development is Section 8 housing, and any person or family qualified to live there pays a reduced rent. They do not receive a voucher. Instead, federal funds are paid to the housing development to cover the portion of the rent the occupants do not pay.

Can a Section 8 housing development reject a qualified applicant?

Yes. Applicants with a history of drug use and drug-related criminal activity can be rejected. Also, applicants with a poor credit rating do not have to be allowed to rent. A prospective tenant with no credit history cannot be rejected on that basis.

An applicant can never be rejected on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, disability or age. A single-parent household or a family receiving welfare benefits cannot be rejected merely for their status.

Other than low-income families, is anyone else is entitled to receive Section 8 rental vouchers?

Yes. Elderly and disabled individuals may also qualify for vouchers.

How do you apply for a Section 8 housing voucher?

Applications are taken through the local housing authority. However, funds are limited, there is a long waiting list and it may be several years before an application is approved.

Does a private landlord have to rent to a tenant with a Section 8 voucher?

No. Only landlords who participate in the program (including companies that own and operate apartment complexes) are required to take tenants with vouchers.

Can a landlord evict a Section 8 tenant?

Yes, for "good cause." Good cause includes failure to pay the rent, criminal activity and repeated behavior that seriously affects the health and welfare other tenants.

Section 8 tenants have certain rights if a landlord attempts to evict them. The tenant can contest the notice of eviction by requesting a hearing with the local housing authority.

Sidebar: A landlord cannot prohibit a Section 8 tenant from keeping a pet. However, he can require a pet deposit and exclude dangerous animals from the property.

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