Check your local public housing agency to find affordable rentals for voucher holders

How to Find Apartments That Accept Section 8

With rent prices at an all-time high, finding affordable housing is becoming more challenging for all renters. Right now, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,722 and the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $2,047.

For low-income renters, finding a safe and affordable place to rent is even more difficult. Government programs like Section 8 are in place to help ease the financial burden of rent. But what is Section 8 exactly and how do you find apartments that accept it?

We’ll walk you through the basics of Section 8 and help you understand what it is, who is eligible and how to apply for it. Here’s everything you need to know about this voucher program.

What is Section 8?

Section 8, formally called the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, is a government-funded program run by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The program aims to help tenants find and pay for affordable and decent housing. The program gives monthly financial assistance to over 1.2 million households who are struggling to pay rent based on their annual income, which must fall below a certain threshold to qualify for Section 8.

Section 8 housing is not limited to low-income or subsidized housing areas only. Section 8 housing is single-family homes, apartments or townhomes. It’s up to the landlord or property management company to decide whether or not they accept Section 8 vouchers. Some states require landlords to accept Section 8, while other states do not. You’ll want to check with your local government to understand what rules are in place regarding Section 8.

Who is eligible?

To qualify for Section 8, applicants must be U.S. citizens (in most cases) and fall under a certain income bracket. While that bracket varies based on the city or area you live in, it generally looks like this:

  • You make 30 percent of the median income in your area
  • You make 50 percent of the median income in your area

Typically, priority is given to renters who make less than 30 percent of the median area income as they fall within the category of extremely low income. The local public housing authority must give 75 percent of the Section 8 vouchers to those who make less than 30 percent of the area’s median income. Section 8 will take into consideration all of the gross income generated by people in the household.

Here’s a real-world example for a prospective Section 8 renter living in Los Angeles. The median income in Los Angeles is $71,358 annually. If someone makes $21,407 or less — which is 30 percent of the median L.A. income — they’d qualify for Section 8. To see what the median income in your area is, check out the Quick Facts section of the Census Bureau.

Section 8 does not cover the entire cost of the rent. It subsidizes a portion of it. Typically, Section 8 has the renter pay 30 percent of their salary towards rent and then, Section 8 vouchers cover the remaining rent due.

Section 8 is not an emergency rental assistance program, so keep that in mind if you’re applying for it. It can take weeks or even months to qualify for Section 8. There are often long wait times to receive Section 8 and, generally, only 1 in 4 people receive assistance immediately.

Hand signing up for housing choice voucher program to get on waiting list for available properties

How to apply for apartments that accept Section 8

Section 8 housing can exist anywhere that landlords choose to participate. It’s not limited to certain cities or neighborhoods. Because specific geographic areas determine the eligibility factors, you’ll need to apply through the local public housing authority or PHA.

Here’s a step-by-step process on how to apply for apartments that accept Section 8.

  • Find your local PHA contact information
  • Download the PDF with each county’s contact information
  • Submit an application to verify your eligibility
  • Wait for approval
  • Once approved, you’ll either receive your Section 8 voucher or be placed on the waiting list

If you’re placed on a waiting list, here are some tips on how to gauge the actual wait time:

  • Ask your PHA for a time estimate
  • Ask your PHA how long the wait list is to see how many people are on it
  • Ask your PHA for information about the turnover rate to see how quickly the wait list moves
  • Understand that larger cities usually have longer wait times

Wait times vary city by city but it can take weeks or months to finally receive assistance.

Finding apartments that accept Section 8

So, you’ve qualified for Section 8 housing and you’re off the waitlist. Now, it’s time to find an apartment that accepts Section 8 so you can start the apartment search and application process.

Usually, you’ll have 90 days to find an apartment that accepts Section 8. Once you find a place that accepts Section 8, you’ll need the PHA to inspect and approve the unit and the lease. This helps ensure you’re renting a clean, safe and livable place that meets HUD criteria.

There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to finding an apartment or landlord that accepts Section 8, but here is our advice on how to start your apartment search.

  • Search Rent. using the “income-restricted” filter and ask the prospective landlord if they accept Section 8 vouchers
  • Use the HUD interactive map to see which areas and apartment complexes accept Section 8
  • Conduct a basic Google search to see what comes up in your area
  • Work with non-profit groups that specialize in low-income housing assistance

Settling into your new apartment

Now that you’ve qualified for Section 8 and found an apartment that accepts vouchers, you’ll want to consider a few other things to set you up for success in your place. Understand the cost of the utilities and security deposits so you can budget accordingly. Also, make sure you thoroughly understand the terms of the agreement of Section 8 — read the fine print! Once you’ve done those things, it’s time to move in and enjoy your new apartment and home.

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