Find Out About Renting to Own

The Section 8 homeownership program is part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that caters to low-income renters looking to own a home.

While there are some regulations in the works to provide one-time down payments to eligible applicants, in the current model, applicants receive financial assistance every month to cover home expenses. Generally, the mortgage encompasses a big portion of the assistance.

To qualify for the Section 8 homeownership program, applicants must meet program eligibility requirements surrounding employment, income and tenancy history. Once they qualify and receive the assistance, they also have responsibilities to adhere to. 

It is important to note that the HUD Section 8 homeownership program is not available in all jurisdictions. Public housing agency (PHA) programs in each state have the discretion to decide on its implementation. Review the sections below for a detailed over of the homeownership program in Section 8. 

How do you qualify for the Section 8 homeownership program?

The Section 8 mortgage assistance program, also known as the homeownership program, has a set of requirements that applicants must meet in order to qualify.

While each participating PHA can set limits on the size and purpose of the voucher, applicants must meet these general requirements:

  • The applicant must be eligible for the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
  • The applicant must be a first-time homeowner.
  • The applicant must meet income limits by household size. 
  • At least one member of the family must currently have full-time employment or had it continuously for one year prior to receiving assistance. This excludes the elderly and disabled.

Additional Section 8 mortgage assistance requirements include attending homeownership counseling, having no ownership interest in a residential property and no default history for a mortgage.

If applicants have a home already in mind, the home must meet housing quality standards to qualify.

How do you apply for Section 8 homeownership program?

Through Section 8, buying a home requires obtaining a voucher. To apply for the Section 8 Homeownership program, you must contact your local PHA. Some agencies allow applicants to complete the application online, by phone or in person.

While some steps may vary, applicants generally must provide proof of identity and income. It is important to note that there are no fees to submit a Section 8 application.

Beware of fraudulent services that claim to facilitate the application process for a fee or provide application assistance only if you pay them money.

Once the agency processes your Section 8 application and accepts you into the program, it will place you on a waiting list among other eligible applicants.

The next step in the process is the Section 8 interview where agents speak with the family to collect all necessary documentation and assess eligibility. Applicants may need to provide documents such as their Social Security cards, birth certificates, medical assistance cards and photo identification. 

How does the Section 8 homeownership program work?

Once your local PHA receives your application and accepts you as a Section 8 homeownership beneficiary, there are a few steps to complete to get your home.

The first is participating in pre-assistance counseling. The HUD provides counseling to prospective homeowners to prepare them on various topics, including:

  • Financial management.
  • Home maintenance.
  • Home Financing.

The next step is setting measurable deadlines for the Section 8 homeownership process. The PHA will generally give Section 8 beneficiaries a time frame to locate a home, obtain a loan and complete the home purchase. 

Finding a home can be taxing, as the process entails a lot of documentation and property visits. Once you find one that suits your needs, the PHA must conduct an inspection to ensure the home meets housing quality standards set by the HUD.

The inspection will determine if the home meets standards in three main areas: health, safety and functionality. 

If a home meets all standards, the beneficiaries may begin steps to purchase the home and contact mortgage lenders. Some PHAs only allocate Section 8 homeownership funds toward monthly payments for home expenses.

Others may allow recipients to put funds toward the down payment or closing costs. Generally, the Section 8 homeownership program covers some of the following:

  • Monthly premiums for mortgage insurance
  • Taxes
  • Utilities
  • Routine maintenance
  • Repairs and replacements

It is important to note that the Section 8 mortgage assistance does not last throughout the entire mortgage term, except for the elderly and disabled.

In some cases, the maximum term is 10 years. Some PHAs have a 15-year limit on providing assistance for mortgages that have terms over 20 years. This means that homeowners will need to pay the remainder on their own.

Receiving homeownership assistance comes with responsibilities on the owner’s part. He or she must live in the home, fulfill all requirements of the mortgage and the Section 8 program and attend mandatory counseling. Failure to do this may result in being disqualified from Section 8 and the homeownership program. 

What are the pros and cons of the Section 8 homeownership program?

Buying a house on Section 8 vouchers is one of the best benefits of the homeownership program. It alleviates many issues that accompany a low income.

Through the program, recipients can benefit from having their own homes and working toward financial freedom.

With a rent-to-own agreement, beneficiaries can build home equity. With this important asset, families can begin to be more financially independent and raise their current standard of living.

Eventually, the homeowners will also have the ability to sell their homes and earn a profit, assuming the PHA has no recapture provisions.  

The biggest disadvantage with the Section 8 home purchase program is the waiting list. Eligible applicants can wait anywhere from months to years to receive their voucher, as demand is very high with limited funding.

In some cases, priority is given to the elderly, the disabled or applicants with special circumstances. Each public housing agency (PHA) creates its own way of prioritizing the applicants on the waiting list.

Some PHAs close their Section 8 homeownership applications if the waiting list becomes full. If this is the case, recipients must regularly check with their local PHA for updates on availability.

Depending on the jurisdiction, applicants may know their exact place on the list by contacting their local PHA office. 

Condos vs Apartments

To identify the difference between a condo and apartment, it is important to consider several factors. Those factors include: 

  • Do you intend to rent or buy a condo vs renting an apartment? 
  • Individual layouts, amenities and maintenance policies. 
  • Homeowner association rules, where applicable. 

It is essential that you compare condo and apartment differences before you begin to look for housing. In doing so, you will narrow own your search and get into an apartment or condo that you love faster. 

While variations between condos and apartments can vary from one location to the next, it is worth taking the time to review the general rule when it comes to renting or buying. You can learn more about these key differences within the sections that have been provided below. 

What is the difference between a condo and an apartment? 

By highlighting the potential differences between a condo and an apartment, you will gain a better understanding of each type of property. This can help you make a more informed decision on whether or not to buy or rent. 

Layout and Size

When it comes to condo and apartment differences, the layouts that you will see will likely depend on the type of condo you are viewing and the area that you live in. For obvious reasons, detached condominiums have layouts that are more similar to single-family homes. However, attached condominiums, which are more common, can have similar layouts to that of apartments or townhomes. 

The style of a condominium can vary greatly depending on the condo. In fact, condo unit layouts can vary even between other attached condos. 

As a general rule of thumb, condominiums are commonly more unique where apartments are often “cookie-cutter” layouts. Condos are generally considered to be more upscale, and thus may also include hardwood floors, more expensive counter tops and a greater amount of space. 


If considering condos vs apartments, you will likely find similar amenities in both types of units. For example, both condo and apartments may feature pool, community areas, gyms and more. However, condos may include more upscale versions of these amenities. While both may have a pool, a condominium may include a larger (or even heated) pool. 

Maintenance Issues

If something breaks in your apartment, there is likely maintenance personnel that can perform repairs and general maintenance. Maintenance staff are typically hired on for apartment complexes and, in the event of an emergency, most apartments feature on-call maintenance amenities. 

This is not always the case when it comes to condominiums. Condos are owned by individual owners. This means that either the owner would need to perform maintenance tasks or hire an individual to do so. Moreover, maintenance may not be “on staff”, which may result in the inability to obtain get help immediately in the event of an emergency.