Section 8 Housing - This type of affordable housing is based on the use of subsidies, the amount of which is geared to the tenant's ability to pay. The subsidy makes up the difference between what the low-income household can afford, and the contract rent established by HUD for an adequate housing unit. Subsidies are either attached to specific units in a property (project-based), or are portable and move with the tenants that receive them (tenant-based). The Section 8 program was passed by Congress in 1974 as part of a major restructuring of the HUD low-income housing programs. Section 8 was created to permit federal housing assistance to go for construction or rehabilitation of new low-income housing or to subsidize existing housing.
What are housing choice vouchers? The housing choice voucher program is the federal government's major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments. The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects.
Am I Eligible?
Housing choice vouchers are administered locally by the McAllen Housing Authority's Section 8 Department. The MHA receives federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher program. A family that is issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of the family's choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program. This unit may include the family's present residence. Rental units must meet Housing Quality Standards as determined by the Section 8 Inspectors of the MHA. A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the MHA on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charge by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.
Eligibility for a housing voucher is determined by the MHA, based on the total annual gross income and family size and is limited to U.S. citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status. In general, the family's income may not exceed the income limits for the area. The Section 8 Department can provide you with the income limits according to your family size.
During the application process, the MHA will collect information on family income, assets, and family composition. The MHA will verify this information with other local agencies, your employer and bank, and will use the information to determine program eligibility and the amount of the housing assistance payment.
If the MHA determines that your family is eligible, the MHA will put your name on the waiting list. Once your name is reached on the waiting list, the MHA will contact you and issued to you a housing voucher.
How Do I Apply? If you are interested in applying for a voucher, contact the McAllen Housing Authority at 2301 Jasmine Ave.
Local preferences and waiting list – what are they and how do they affect me? Since the demand for housing assistance often exceeds the limited resources available, long waiting periods are common. In fact, the MHA may close its waiting list when it has more families on the list than can be assisted in the near future.
The MHA has established local preferences for selecting applicants from its waiting list. Families who qualify for any such local preferences move ahead of other families on the list who do not qualify for any preference.
Housing Vouchers - How do they function? The housing choice voucher program places the choice of housing in the hands of the individual family. A very low-income family is selected by the MHA to participate is encouraged to consider several housing choices to secure the best housing for its needs. A housing choice voucher holder is advised of the unit size for which it is eligible based on family size and composition.
The housing unit selected by the family must meet an acceptable level of health and safety before the MHA can approve the unit. When the voucher holder finds a unit that it wishes to occupy and reaches an agreement with the landlord over the lease terms, the MHA must inspect the dwelling and determine that the rent requested is reasonable.
The MHA determines a payment standard that is the amount generally needed to rent a moderately-priced dwelling unit in the local housing market and that is used to calculate the amount of housing assistance a family will receive. However the payment standard does not limit but does not affect the amount of rent a landlord may charge or the family may pay. A family, which receives a voucher, can select a unit with a rent that is below or above the payment standard. The housing voucher family must pay 30% of its monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities, and if the unit rent is greater than the payment standard the family is required to pay the additional amount. By law, whenever a family moves to a new unit where the rent exceeds the payment standard, the family may not pay more than 40 percent of its adjusted monthly income for rent.
Roles – the tenant, the landlord, the McAllen Housing Authority, and HUD Once the MHA approves an eligible family's housing unit, the family and the landlord sign a lease and, at the same time, the landlord and the MHA sign a housing assistance payments contract that runs for the same term as the lease. This means that everyone – tenant, landlord and the MHA – has obligations and responsibilities under the voucher program.
Tenant's Obligations: When a family selects a housing unit, and the MHA approves the unit and lease, the family signs a lease with the landlord for at least one year. The tenant may be required to pay a security deposit to the landlord. When the family is settled in a new home, the family is expected to comply with the lease and the program requirements, pay its share of rent on time maintain the unit in good condition and notify the MHA of any changes in income or family composition.
Landlord's Obligations: The role of the landlord in the voucher program is to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing to a tenant at a reasonable rent. The dwelling unit must pass the program's housing quality standards and be maintained up to those standards as long as the owner receives housing assistance payments. In addition, the landlord is expected to provide the services agreed to as part of the lease signed with the tenant and the contract signed with McAllen Housing Authority.
Housing Authority's Obligations: The MHA administers the voucher program locally. The MHA provides a family with the housing assistance that enables the family to seek out suitable housing and the MHA enters into a contract with the landlord to provide housing assistance payments on behalf of the family. If the landlord fails to meet the owner's obligations under the lease, the MHA has the right to terminate assistance payments. The MHA must reexamine the family's income and composition at least annually and must inspect each unit at least annually to ensure that it meets minimum housing quality standards.
HUD's Role: To cover the cost of the program, HUD provides funds to allow the MHA to make housing assistance payments on behalf of the families. HUD also pays the MHA a fee for the cost of administering the program. When additional funds become available to assist new families, HUD invites housing authorities to submit applications for funds for additional housing vouchers. Applications are then reviewed and funds awarded to selected housing authorities on a competitive basis. HUD monitors the housing authorities administration of the program to ensure program rules are properly followed.