In the property management industry, Section 8 housing assistance is often looked upon with a jaded eye. Many property managers look at the program and see only the problems: too much paperwork, too much government involvement, low-quality tenants, and a host of legal issues and expenses. While there can be a lot of paperwork initially (and inspections, back and forth with caseworkers, etc.), becoming a successful Section 8 landlord can be a positive thing for the community. Potential tenants are everywhere. You simply need to find someone that has completed a section 8 application and has received a voucher.
What is Section 8?
Section 8 housing authorizes rental assistance on behalf of more than 4 million low-income households throughout the United States. In addition to providing affordable housing to a number of communities around the country, the programs also incentivize landlords who are willing to work with local housing authorities.
So, why are people hesitant to get involved in affordable housing management? A common misconception about Section 8 is that it’s a “free ride” for participants. The truth is, tenants that have completed a section 8 application are required to pay rent equal to 30% of their income, and the federal money allocated for the Program pays the balance directly to the landlord or property manager. The federal portion of the payment is limited by fair market rent guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Guidelines are based on geographic area, unit size, and how utility payments are split between landlord and tenant. Additionally, there is no time limit for participation—a family can participate in the program as long as they have a need.
What are all of the available assistance programs?
The largest of the various assistance programs is called The Housing Choice Voucher program, and can be tenant-based or project-based.
Project-based vouchers apply to specific apartment communities that work with the local public housing authorities (PHAs). Many of these types of programs have fallen by the wayside due to a less-than-admirable history of housing projects in the U.S.—for example Chicago’s Cabrini-Green or New York City’s Queensbridge Houses. Project-based housing hasn’t completely disappeared though, there are still many apartment communities that accept both voucher recipients and full-market-rate tenants. The benefits of going this route are that voucher recipients are not forced into “the projects,” and landlords have a pool of pre-screened applicants to choose from. And, managers and owners can still provide safe, affordable housing to tenants looking to rent at full-market rate. Tenant-based vouchers allow tenants to choose any privately rented unit, as long as the landlord participates in the Section 8 Program. Voucher recipients see the most significant benefits from this program, as they have a greater freedom of choice in housing. The most comprehensive review of the HCV program is the HUD Housing Choice Vouchers Fact Sheet. Finding out how to apply for section 8 online is the first step in becoming a part of subsidized rental assistance.