A Quick Guide to the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Aka the Section 8 Voucher

If you’re one of the millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet, surely housing is at the top of your personal budget. Housing cost overburden is usually the primary obstacle in most American’s personal financial planning.

The first housing assistance program that comes to mind for most people is the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program (also known as the Section 8 Program). The HCV program was established in 1974 as America worked to ensure the poor had a safe place to call home. MoreVoucher

The housing assistance is what the housing industry refers to as a rent subsidy. In a nutshell, when a person has a Housing Choice Voucher, they choose his or her own home (within certain HUD imposed limits) and the HCV pays any rent amount in excess of 30% of the voucher holder’s income. If a renter earns $2,000 per month, the voucher holder pays thirty percent of that, or $600, toward the rent. If the actual rent being charged by the landlord is $900, the voucher picks up the difference of $300.

There are approximately 2.1 million Housing Choice Voucher holders in the U.S. today. This housing subsidy is a precious resource for many poorer families and is actually hard to come by. Wait times to get a voucher are usually in the years.

Many housing authorities shut down their Section 8 waiting lists for years at a time due to overwhelming demand. They only open the waiting lists back up for a few days at a time. There have been several incidents of lines forming in front of housing authority offices in the wee hours of the morning or even the night before when these waiting lists open back up. In January 2013, more than 3,000 people lined up in the freezing cold temperatures of Detroit, Michigan the night before the housing authority office was to open to accept only 1,000 applications.

How does one apply for Section 8 without standing in long lines? Well, that depends on the city in which you live. Some housing authorities are beginning to accept applications online but there are still few and far between. And don’t be fooled by the countless web sites out there that tell you they can help you submit a Section 8 voucher application online. These sites are a scam. Only communicate with your housing authority office.

The Section 8 voucher program is administered by the local housing authority in your area.

If you are fortunate enough to receive a voucher, you’ll need to locate an acceptable home or apartment. The rent must be within certain limits that will be provided to you with the voucher. The home or apartment will also have to be inspected by the housing authority to insure it meets the minimum physical requirements of the program.

And, don’t forget to tell your prospective landlord you have a voucher. Though it is debatable that it is illegal to discriminate against Section 8 voucher holders, plenty of landlords still do.

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