Do You Qualify for a Housing Choice Voucher?

( – The Housing Choice Voucher is a rental assistance program that helps low and extremely low-income families afford decent, sanitary, and safe housing. This federally funded was created in 1974 under the Housing and Community Development Act. It is a locally administered program whereby the Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) administer the housing choice vouchers.

Once you get a housing voucher, you can then begin looking for your preferred housing unit whose owner participates in the program. The PHA pays a set amount of housing subsidy to the landlord every month, while the tenants or participating families only pay the difference between the actual rent of the housing unit as charged by the owner and the amount subsidized by the program.

Who Qualifies for a Housing Choice Voucher?

You qualify for a Housing Choice Voucher if you earn a low or very low income based on annual gross income and need safe, decent, and/or sanitary housing. Income eligibility limits for the Housing Choice Voucher Program are capped as percentages of the local median income. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates the median income for households of various sizes in each metropolitan area and rural county in the country.

HUD categorizes households with incomes up to 30% of the local area median as extremely low income and those with incomes up to 50% as very low-income households. Further, the department categorizes those with incomes up to 80% as low-income households. Housing agencies must ensure that 75% of the new households they admit to the voucher program every year have an income of 30% or less of the local area median. Other households may have an income of up to 80% of the local area median.

If a housing agency enrolls tenants with an income of between 50% and 80% of the area median income, it must give a reason for doing that in its annual plan. When a family’s income rises, the voucher subsidy decreases. A family’s subsidy usually falls to zero before or immediately after its income hits 80% of the local area median.

Applying for the Housing Choice Voucher Program: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you’re struggling to find affordable housing, here’s how you can apply for a Housing Choice Voucher:

1. Search for a Public Housing Agency in Your Area

Visit the HUD website to find a Public Housing Agency in your area. You will find PHAs categorized by state, city, and/or zip code and their contact details provided.

2. Check the Restrictions or Preferences of the Local PHA

Public Housing Agencies are flexible in determining the families to serve and have permission to develop admission preferences on which applicants can get assistance before others, such as people with disabilities, the elderly, local residents, or those experiencing homelessness. Inform the PHA if you are on their list of preferred applicants. If not, you may have to wait.

3. Get an Application for the Housing Choice Voucher Program

You can apply for the Housing Choice Voucher program by mail, online, or at the local PHA’s office. The applications are entirely free.

4. Fill in All the Required Parts of the Application

Most PHAs request the following details from the applicants:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security Number
  • Gross income of those applicable
  • Mailing addresses
  • Email addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Housing history
  • Criminal history

Ensure you follow all the instructions of the housing authority for your application to be processed efficiently and completely.

5. Submit the Application

You should submit the full application per the PHA’s instruction by the due date to avoid rejection.

6. Wait for the Housing Authority to Process the Application

The application may take a few months to process, but once finalized, housing authorities will confirm your placement on the waiting list or send a rejection notification by mail. Some housing authorities require applicants to log into their online portal to see the application status.

Apply for Housing Choice Voucher

Vouchers have given families more choices about where to live, lifted many people above the poverty line, and reduced homelessness and other hardships. If you struggle to find affordable housing, check whether you qualify for the Housing Choice Voucher program and apply for affordable, decent, safe, and sanitary housing.

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