What Is Section 8 Housing? A Complete Guide

8 Min Read
Updated Feb. 23, 2024
Row of town homes along street.
Written By Patrick Russo

Are you on the hunt for a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, but don’t know where to start looking? Well, you’ve come to the right place! You may think Section 8 is only a rental assistance program, but the Section 8 Homeownership Program can also help you buy a home and start building equity that can grow in value over time.

Let’s take a closer look at Section 8 housing, the requirements to qualify and how the program can help you buy your dream home.

What Is Section 8 Housing?

Section 8 housing provides vouchers and subsidies to low-income, disabled and elderly individuals so they can have safe places to live outside of public housing developments. In effect, the Section 8 program allows landlords to get the fair market rental value for their properties while low-income tenants get to live in an apartment or home they couldn’t afford otherwise.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) oversees and funds the program officially known as the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program. The vouchers are then administered by local public housing agencies (PHAs).

If you are chosen to receive a Section 8 housing voucher, you have the freedom to choose any residence that meets HUD’s health and safety requirements (more on those below). That doesn’t mean you have to move if you like where you’re currently living but can’t afford it. You can use the voucher for your current rental payments as long as the property meets HUD’s safety standards.

Once you know where you’d like to live and the landlord agrees to participate with the Section 8 program, your local PHA will send the rental payments directly to the landlord. In certain extreme cases for Section 8 participants in dire need, this payment might cover the entire cost of the rent. In most cases however, the program requires the household to pay around 30% of their income toward rental costs. In this case, you will be responsible for paying the landlord the remaining balance of the rent every month.

See What You Qualify For

How Does The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Homeownership Program Work?

Section 8 is not only for renters. HUD also allows Section 8 tenants to pursue the dream of homeownership by utilizing their vouchers to purchase a home. If you meet these requirements, you can leverage your voucher as a method to build equity in your own home instead of passing along these funds to a landlord.

What Are The Section 8 Eligibility Requirements?

As your local PHA administers Section 8 vouchers, you’ll need to work with them to get a better sense of your Section 8 eligibility. Here’s a few general qualifications to expect.

Income Qualifications

Generally, you are eligible for Section 8 assistance if your income sits below 50% of the median income for your local area. Additionally, you and any other adults in your family must be employed for an average of 30 hours per week and have had a job for at least the past year.

In some extreme cases, it is possible to qualify for exceptions to these requirements. However, you should plan to contribute 30% — 40% of your income to cover rent, even with the help of a voucher.

Citizenship Eligibility

You must be a U.S. citizen to participate in the Section 8 housing program. However, some non-citizens with eligible immigration status may qualify. For more on eligibility requirements, you can visit HUD’s information page.

Criminal Record Disqualifications

Having a criminal record could disqualify you from Section 8 housing. Your local PHA will administer a criminal background check when you apply. If you are concerned whether this could disqualify you, reach out to your PHA for more information on what crimes will force them to deny your application.

Eviction History Disqualifications

Your PHA may also disqualify you if you’ve previously been evicted from public housing.

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Can You Buy A House With Section 8?

If you have received a housing voucher, you can begin looking for affordable housing, so long as you’re approved by the local PHA to purchase a home. There are also some additional requirements for this program that do not apply to renters. These include being a first-time home buyer, attending homeownership education classes, and specific employment requirements for low-income residents. Elderly and disabled participants don’t have to meet employment requirements.

The PHA also requires you to go through a process where it considers your ability to steadily make mortgage payments, including confirming whether you have an adequate credit score to buy a house. After completing this process, you’ll be set to take your dream of homeownership to the next level and can actively begin to look for houses.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Section 8 Housing?

There are many upsides, but also disadvantages, to participating in the Section 8 Housing program.


  • It helps build equity. Section 8 enables low-income families to build equity in a property, helping them improve their standard of living in the long term.
  • You can find a safer and better home. Whether you’re renting or buying, Section 8 frees you to find a safer home in a better-situated neighborhood than you could otherwise afford.
  • You have help from a Public Housing Agency (PHA). During your search and throughout the home buying process, you’ll be able to call on the expertise, advice and support of your local PHA (or a local nonprofit).
  • You’ll be ready for homeownership. Applicants will participate in educational programs preparing them for homeownership.


  • You might not be able to afford certain areas. A Section 8 voucher might not be valuable enough for low-income families that want to own a home in a more expensive area.
  • There are term limits. Vouchers may come with term limits that do not match the length of your loan terms. If your loan term is longer than the support term, you’ll have to cover the full cost of the loan once your voucher term runs out.
  • It could be tough to find a lender. Many lenders tend to avoid financing for PHA homeownership programs, making it more difficult to find a potential lending partner.
  • There may be a long completion timeline. Section 8 is not an emergency housing program. Getting a voucher can take years, and by then you may already have found adequate housing.

How To Apply For Section 8 Housing Assistance

The Section 8 application process can be long and involved, but generally operates according to the following steps.

1. Contact Your Local Housing Authority

You can find PHA contact information for your local housing authority at HUD’s website. Contact them to get the process started.

2. Verify Your Eligibility

Next, work with your local PHA to determine whether you qualify for Section 8 housing. Note that the PHA may give preference to local applicants and those dealing with homelessness.

3. Complete The Application

Finally, fill out the PHA’s application if you qualify for Section 8 housing. You’ll need to provide some personal information, including your name, address, employer, various financial details and more. Make sure to check with your local PHA to ensure you provide all the necessary information to avoid even further delays.

Section 8 Housing FAQs

Here are some of the most common questions about buying a house with Section 8.

How much will Section 8 give me in housing assistance?

Once you find a home, the PHA will determine the “payment standard” in the area, the average amount you would need to rent a moderately priced unit. You can then calculate your amount of assistance by subtracting 30% of your family’s monthly adjusted gross income from this payment standard.

Can Section 8 help me move anywhere in the country?

Yes! Section 8 housing allows you to move anywhere in the country as long as you follow certain requirements while leaving your current residence. You must notify the PHA before you move, follow termination provisions on your current lease, and move into new housing that meets Section 8 requirements.

Is it hard to get approved for Section 8 Housing?

While you might meet the requirements for Section 8 housing, it can take a very long time to get approved. The PHA gives preference to homeless applicants, and even then you may wait for years to be approved.

What are the income requirements for Section 8?

The general income requirement for Section 8 housing is less than 50% of the median income for your local area. The exact amount will change based on where you live and the size of your family.

The Bottom Line: Section 8 Helps You Find Affordable Housing

Section 8 housing helps low-income, disabled and elderly individuals find safe housing. While you may have heard of Section 8 rental assistance, the program can also help participants buy a home and cover the costs of homeownership.

The main downside is that the Section 8 program takes a long time to approve applicants. If you’re looking to for your first home soon, other first-time home buyer programs may work better for you. Visit Quicken Loans® to learn more!

Home Buyer’s Guide

Home Buyer’s Guide

Follow our step-by-step guide to learn how to buy a home.