How to Apply for HUD Housing Benefits

The Section 8 Housing program is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Public housing agencies (PHAs) are responsible for distributing this funding to families and individuals in need of assistance and better living situations. PHAs also help applicants become financially stable and learn how to lower their dependency on government benefits. If a family qualifies for Section 8 housing, it will be placed on a waitlist. Families at the top of the waitlist will receive housing vouchers and may look for new homes to rent. The homes must meet certain health and safety standards set by the PHA. It may take a long time for a family to reach the top of the waitlist. 

There are several ways to apply for Section 8 Housing benefits. Depending on the state, you may be required to complete a preliminary application online. Other states may require you to complete some or all of the application in person. The application process may even vary from county to county. However, if you follow the instructions provided on your local PHA website, the procedure will most likely be relatively straightforward. It is important that you submit accurate information, because the PHA will work to verify your data. If the agency finds that it is not accurate, you may lose your chances of receiving benefits.

Factors that Determine If You Qualify for the Section 8 Housing Program

Your income level is the most important factor in determining your eligibility for a housing choice voucher. However, every state and even separate towns within each state will have different income requirements. This is because the average income level will vary from county to county. To find the most accurate information for your area, contact your local PHA or visit its online website. 

You may also complete an initial application online if your PHA has its own website. In Montana, for example, you may fill out an application online and skip the wait at an agency office. Online systems will generally require you to submit information about your income, the size of your family and how many other family members have jobs. The questions about income are usually the most extensive and ask for the exact salaries of each family member and where they work. If you have assets or any other sources of income, you must include them on the application as well. Other required information from each family member includes:

  • The full name of the family member.
  • Date of birth.
  • Social Security Number (SSN).
  • The relationship of each member to you. For instance, you must indicate which member is your spouse, your child, etc.
  • The amount of members of the family that are pregnant, disabled or elderly.

Sometimes, your personal information changes after you submit the application. If this happens, you are required to fill out and submit a waiting list information change form. Then, submit it to your local agency. 

It is important to remember that PHAs have the authority to close the waiting list if they are unable to provide funding for additional applicants. As a result, the waiting lists in certain towns have been closed for quite some time. Applicants must therefore visit their state website to determine whether the waitlist is still open. If it is not, they may consider alternative housing assistance programs, which may be available depending on the area.

Ways to Prepare for the Section 8 Housing Application

It is recommended that you prepare certain documents and have them readily available for when you fill out the application. This may ease the process and will help you submit the most accurate information as possible. It is also important for you to provide up-to-date information, so that the PHA can make an accurate calculation of your benefits. If you are fairly certain that you will qualify for the program and receive assistance quickly, you may even begin searching for houses. 

What happens after you submit the Section 8 housing application?

After you submit the application, the PHA may follow up with you and request your supporting documents, such as proof of identity, citizenship or legal presence. This may include a valid U.S. birth certificate, state-issued driver’s license or ID card, a Social Security card, a letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA), a green card and certain other documents issued by federal administrations. The public housing agency will also perform a background check to verify the information you have submitted and to make sure you have been as honest and accurate as possible. 

If you are approved for the program, a PHA worker may contact you to inform you of your updated status. You will also be required to complete an in-person interview. This gives you the chance to ask the PHA worker any questions you may have, and it gives the worker the chance to clarify any information on your application. The worker may also ask you to submit your identification documents if you have not done so already. In addition to proof of identity and proof of citizenship or legal presence, you must submit proof of income. This may be in the form of a pay stub, W-2 form, benefit award letter or bank statement. 

Upon completion of the interview and a successful review of your supporting documents, the worker may ask you to sign certain forms. Be sure to take your time reading these documents, as you want to know exactly what you are signing and how it will affect you and your family. You may ask the PHA worker any questions you may have about your rights and responsibilities while you participate in the program. However, he or she will most likely go over those with you before you ask.

If the interview goes well and your documents are verified, you will be placed on the waiting list. During the waiting period, you must inform your PHA if any part of your situation changes or if you begin receiving higher pay at your job. The agency will eventually notify you when you reach the top of the waiting list and require you to attend a voucher briefing. Afterward, you will receive a Request for Tenancy Approval package in the mail. This package and the voucher that comes with it will allow you to begin searching for a new home.