Two types of felony convictions automatically bar people from receiving Section 8 housing vouchers: any crime that requires lifelong registration as a sex offender and manufacturing methamphetamine in federal housing. While those are the federal guidelines, other felonies can disqualify people throughout the country. Each jurisdiction sets its own rules regarding rent assistance and public housing for convicted felons.
Various localities ban people with drug-related crimes, violent offenses and other convictions from receiving Section 8 vouchers. Applicants must also meet several other qualifications.
What Is Section 8 Housing?
In 1974, the federal government added the eighth section to the Housing Act of 1937. This provision gave the Department of Housing and Urban Development the authority to use a voucher system to provide housing assistance to low-income families and others who need help. This program is now known simply as Section 8.
Under this program, the government expects a household to put 30 percent of its monthly income toward rent. The government also determines a fair price for adequate housing in the area, then makes up the difference with vouchers that landlords can accept.
Approximately 3.3 million people use Section 8 vouchers to pay their rent. While some people use the term Section 8 as a synonym for housing in unsafe neighborhoods, this is not always the case. Landlords in all kinds of neighborhoods can accept Section 8 vouchers.
Read More: Rules & Regulations for Section 8 Rentals & Senior Housing
Felonies and Section 8 Housing
Can renters get public housing assistance with a felony on their record? It depends on the type of conviction and where the person lives.
To earn Section 8 vouchers, applicants must first meet the standards that the Department of Housing and Urban Development sets forth. HUD prohibits individuals from receiving housing assistance if they are on the sex offender registry for life or if they were convicted of making methamphetamine in government-subsidized housing.
Other Rules for Public Housing Authority Applicants
HUD also gives authority to Public Housing Authorities across the country. These local agencies oversee Section 8 in their regions and can set rules for applicants. While requirements vary between PHAs, some felonies that can exclude people from the program are violent crimes, some types of fraud and drug trafficking.
Some PHAs will provide public housing for convicted felons if the conviction is five or 10 years old. People with felonies on their records should check with their local PHAs before applying for Section 8 to see if their convictions will keep them from qualifying.
Other Section 8 Qualifications
In addition to passing the Section 8 criminal background check, Section 8 applicants must meet several requirements before receiving approval. First, applicants must meet the income requirements that HUD sets.
The department releases new income requirements every year. Generally, applicants must make less than 50 percent of the median household income in their area. Income limits also vary by family size. Anyone considering applying for Section 8 can see the latest income requirements at the HUD website.
PHAs also check each family member's rental history before approving Section 8 eligibility. In general, anyone who has been evicted for drug use, possession or trafficking will not qualify for Section 8. This applies even if the person was not convicted of the crime.
Section 8 Citizenship and Immigration Requirements
Section 8 candidates must also be United States citizens or documented immigrants. Undocumented immigrants cannot qualify for this assistance, even if they meet all the other requirements.
How to Get Section 8 Housing
Anyone who believes they meet the qualifications for Section 8 housing can set up a meeting with the local PHA. The PHA will go over details about the local requirements and housing options. Many regions have long wait lists for Section 8 housing, which can delay this assistance by months or even years.
Landlords who want to accept Section 8 vouchers should contact their local PHA. The representatives can help landlords learn how to accept and cash the vouchers. They may also help landlords find tenants.
- Hire Felons: Housing for Felons: How to Get a Section 8 Voucher With a Felony
- Realtor: What Is Section 8 Housing? Help Paying Rent (and Not Just in Low-Income Neighborhoods)
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Housing Choice Vouchers Fact Sheet
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: HUD's Public Housing Program
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Income Limits
Mackenzie Maxwell has always been interested in law, working with legal issues since 2010. She served in Congress for some time, as part of the communications team for Silvestre Reyes and helped constituents understand the laws on the House floor. She stayed active in local politics to understand the laws that govern her area. As a writer, Mackenzie has worked with several lawyers to create thoughtful, helpful content.