The Section 8 Housing Program is a special government program that provides assistance to low-income families, the disabled and the elderly in the form of vouchers that are used to obtain affordable, safe, decent housing. As a high-demand program, the waiting lists for this program are often quite lengthy, and an applicant's position on the list is at the discretion of the administrators; higher-need individuals may be given priority.
To be eligible for the Section 8 Housing Program, seniors must meet income standards that vary by state and sometimes even by county. Typically, the individual's income must be less than 50 percent of the county's median income. Also, 75 percent of vouchers must be given to individuals whose incomes are less than 30 percent of the area's median income. (Median income levels are tracked and documented by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.) Meeting income standards does not guarantee aid, however; the program attempts to assist the neediest seniors first.
Administration and Regulation
The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program is federally funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. On the local level, it is administered by public housing agencies (PHAs) who oversee the program, receive applications and determine local priorities. Seniors who want to apply for Section 8 housing assistance should go to their local PHA; a list of agencies, by state, is available on the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 8 website.
One of the strong attractions of the Section 8 Housing program is that it allows seniors to choose their own living accommodations, but still receive government assistance. This gives them options in the private market, without having to go into low-income, government-run housing developments. Seniors may even be able to receive housing assistance for the location where they are currently living. However, all housing choices must be approved by the local PHA; locations will be inspected for health and safety, and to ensure they comply with the unit size mandated by the PHA. (Unit size allowances are determined after analyzing the senior's family composition and income levels.)
Another housing requirement for Section 8 housing is the landlord's agreement to participate in the program and receive the government-issued housing vouchers as payment. When a landlord agrees to participate and signs a lease with the senior receiving Section 8 assistance, he must also sign an agreement with the PHA. The landlord must agree to provide safe, sanitary housing for a reasonable price and maintain the unit to PHA standards.
A senior who has signed a lease with a landlord and is receiving Section 8 assistance is entitled to the same rights as any other tenant. This includes, but is not limited to, the right to prompt maintenance and building upkeep, access to building facilities and services, the right to notification of entry for repairs and inspection, and any other legally binding tenant rights.