Housing Choice Voucher Program

The Housing Choice Voucher program is the federal government's major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market.  Housing choice vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies (PHAs). The PHAs receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher program.

A family that is issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of the family's choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program.  Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by the PHA.  A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the PHA on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.  The PHA generally pays the landlord the difference between 30 percent of household income and the PHA-determined payment standard for the area.

Since the demand for housing assistance often exceeds the limited resources available to HUD and the local housing agencies, long waiting periods are common.  PHAs may establish local preferences for selecting applicants from its waiting list. For example, PHAs may give a preference to a family who is (1) homeless or living in substandard housing, (2) paying more than 50 percent of its income for rent, or (3) involuntarily displaced. Families who qualify for any such local preference move ahead of other families on the list who do not qualify for any preference.  Each PHA has the discretion to establish local preferences to reflect the housing needs and priorities of its particular community.

View the program website

Eligible Applicants:

PHAs may apply for funding to operate Section 8 housing choice voucher programs.

Eligible Beneficiaries:

Eligibility for a housing voucher is determined by the PHA based on the total annual gross income and family size and is limited to US citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status.
In general, the family's income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which the family chooses to live.  By law, a PHA must provide 75 percent of its voucher to applicants whose incomes do not exceed 30 percent of the area median income.

Individuals interested in applying for public housing should contact their local PHA.

Funding Mechanism:

To cover the cost of the program, HUD provides funds to allow PHAs to make housing assistance payments on behalf of the families. HUD also pays the PHA a fee for the costs of administering the program. When additional funds become available to assist new families, HUD invites PHAs to submit applications for funds for additional housing vouchers. Applications are then reviewed and funds awarded to the selected PHAs on a competitive basis.

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