Low-income apartments

Low-Income Apartments: The Difference Between Section 8 and Public Housing

Today’s rent prices continue to trend upward, making it difficult for many people to find affordable apartments. In fact, according to Apartment Guide’s Rent Report for November 2021, apartment rents are up almost 20 percent for one-bedroom apartments and more than 17 percent for two-bedroom apartments from November 2020. It’s not surprising, then, that many renters are shopping for low-income apartments, also called public housing or section 8 apartments.

It’s important to note that public housing and Section 8 are not the same things, and you must know the difference if you’re considering them as an option for low-income housing. Start here.

What is Section 8?

Funded by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), Section ­8, or the Housing Choice Voucher Program, is an assistance program for very low-income families, the elderly and the disabled so they can afford safe and sanitary low-income apartments. Through local public housing agencies (PHA), the program subsidizes rent through housing vouchers paid directly to the renter’s landlord with the renter paying the difference between the full rent and the amount paid by the voucher.

According to HUD, the PHA determines the maximum amount of assistance you can receive. This is generally the lesser of the payment standard minus 30 percent of your family’s monthly adjusted income or the gross rent minus 30 percent of monthly adjusted income.

If you’re chosen to participate in the program and wish to move, you may do so as long as you notify the PHA of your moving plans and the new housing meets the PHA requirements.

What is public housing?

Public housing has a variety of housing options, including single-family homes and low-income apartments. They’re managed by housing authorities (HA) for affordable rents to eligible low-income families, the elderly and those with disabilities. HUD administers federal aid to these HA developments so rent will be affordable. Rent, also called the Total Tenant Payment (TTP), is based on your anticipated gross annual income minus any deductions.

HUD looks at the highest of the following elements, rounded to the nearest dollar, to determine your TTP:

  • Thirty percent of your monthly adjusted income less any deductions you may qualify to receive
  • Ten percent of your monthly income
  • Welfare rent, if applicable, or a minimum rent of $25 or higher (with a maximum of $50) as set by the HA

There are additional allowances for exclusion from your gross annual income as follows: $480 for each dependent; $400 for any elderly family members or anyone with a disability; and certain medical deductions for any family headed by an elderly person or a family member with disabilities.

How is Section 8 different from public housing?

The primary difference between Section 8 and public housing is who owns and manages the properties. Yes, HUD manages both programs, but with Section 8, private landlords own all properties and they accept Section 8 vouchers on behalf of their renters. Public housing is government-owned and -operated properties.

Not all private rental properties will qualify as Section 8 housing. The property must meet the requirements of the Housing Choice Voucher Program as decent, safe and sanitary housing at a reasonable rent. In addition, the landlord must agree to adhere to the Housing Choice Voucher Program requirements by providing all services agreed to as part of the renter’s lease agreement and the PHA contract.

Group of low-income housing buildings

How do you qualify for Section 8 housing?

There are several requirements you must meet to receive a housing voucher. These include:

  • Your total annual gross income cannot exceed 50 percent of the median income for the county or metropolitan area where the property is
  • Meet HUD’s definition of family and size
  • Must be a U.S. citizen or a member of specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status
  • Provide financial information, including income and assets
  • Provide personal information including your Social Security number
  • Pass the PHA screening process

It’s important to note that if you’re eligible, you may not receive assistance right away. It’s possible HUD will place you on a waiting list until assistance is available.

Also, if you’re eligible for Section 8, you must follow all lease and program requirements, pay your rent on time, maintain your property in good condition and notify the PHA if there are any changes in your income or family size.

To apply for Section 8, you must contact the local PHA or HUD office.

How do you qualify for public housing?

There are three key factors you must meet to qualify for public housing. These are:

  • Annual gross income meets HUD’s income limits
  • Qualify as a family, as elderly or as a person with a disability
  • You’re a U.S. citizen or have eligible immigration status

You also must provide personal references as part of your application.

In addition, income limits vary by location and family size. The lower income limits set by HUD are 80 percent and the very low-income limit is 50 percent of the median income for the county or metropolitan area where the property is.

If you’re eligible for public housing, you may have to pay a security deposit. You also must follow all lease terms and keep the property in good condition. If your income or family size changes, you must notify the HA.

To apply for public housing, you must contact your local HA or HUD field office.

What type of housing assistance do you need?

For low-income and very low-income families, assistance is available to help you find an affordable place to live.

With Section 8, you may receive a housing voucher to help cover your rent with a private landlord. Through public housing, you may find an affordable apartment in a government-owned- and –operated building. It’s important to explore both options when searching for low-income apartments that will accommodate your family and won’t break your budget.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.


Get connected with the best moving company!

like a boss!

Sign up to keep up with all the best…

Rent like a boss!

Sign up to keep up with all the best…