How your local public housing agency can help
Finding affordable and safe housing for Solo Moms with very low incomes can be a challenge. There is public and subsidized housing. But there is another program that helps single moms find housing: the Housing Choice Voucher, known as Section 8.
What is Section 8 housing?
Section 8 housing is a federal program that assists low-income families in affording a place to live. Unlike subsidized housing or public housing, tenants are free to choose any housing they prefer with Section 8 housing. The only stipulation is the landlord has to agree to rent under the program. If approved, the housing voucher is paid directly to the landlord. The family is responsible only for the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the voucher amount. For instance, if my landlord charges $650 for rent and my housing voucher is $400, I would have to cover only the $250 difference between the two. In some instances, Section 8 housing can also be used to purchase a home.
How to start
The first thing you need to do is contact your local public housing agency (PHA). You’ll need to fill out an application that asks for your family’s income and assets, how many people are in your family, etc. Once it is completed, the PHA will verify all your information and determine your eligibility.
Eligibility for Section 8 housing is based on median income levels and will vary depending on where you live. As a general guideline, a family’s income cannot exceed 50% of the median income for the county or city of residence. For example, if I live in a county where the average family makes $30,000, my income cannot be higher than $15,000 in order to qualify. Income requirements can vary greatly depending on location, so your PHA can provide you with the income limits for your area and family size.
This is a popular program, so waiting lists are common. PHAs may give preference to families that are homeless or living in a shelter, those paying more than 50% of their income for rent, or families that have been involuntarily displaced. Each PHA has the discretion to establish its own policies and procedures that reflect the housing needs in your community.
- Section 8 housing is a federal program designed to allow low-income families to choose their own housing.
- It can be a good alternative to subsidized and public housing because families can choose the housing type. Landlords can elect to accept Section 8 housing vouchers.
- It is a popular program, and guidelines and rules are determined by each community’s PHA.
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Julia Liu is the daughter of a Solo Mom and has a degree in professional communication. She is the mom to two sons. She has worked in early-childhood education and was the director of a nonprofit private preschool for many years. You can follow her on Twitter at @notaDNB1.
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