The Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly known as “Section 8,” assists low-income renters to live in privately owned rental units. Public housing authorities receive federal funds to administer this program. Facing a great need and demand for help, many of the authorities have long waiting lists or have stopped receiving requests from most potential tenants. Many of the applicants, in turn, face an urgent need for housing because of a fire, natural disaster, loss of their current residence due to government action, and others. If you suddenly need help, the housing authority may consider you a priority and possibly accelerate your path to housing assistance.
Find the public housing authority in your area. One option is to consult the blue pages of the telephone directory under “Local Government, Public Housing Authority”. Another option is to go to the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development website to see public housing authorities (see References). Select your status from the list or map. Scroll through the list of authorities to find the one in your area.
Find out if the housing authority has priorities or preferences for the acceptance of applicants. Each local authority sets its own priorities. These may include the homeless, residents in precarious homes, victims of domestic violence, and those who are forced to leave their homes for reasons such as government action, fire or natural disaster or for reasons beyond the control of the plaintiffs.
Find an apartment that accepts vouchers or payments from Section 8. Click on the state link on the Information page of the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development of the State. Choose the “Get rental help” link. Select “Search for a subsidized apartment.” Enter the city, county or zip code or property name. Select the type of apartment for disability, elderly, family or medical care. Click on the box corresponding to the number of rooms you want the apartment to have.
Get an application for Section 8 or Housing Choice Vouchers. Read it carefully before filling it out and submit the requested information. Present it to the public housing authority of the area where you reside. When the authority decides to grant you a voucher and approves the rental unit you selected, read and sign both the rental agreement with the owner and the help agreement with the housing authority.
Gather all Social Security numbers and birth dates of your family and income information, such as W-2 forms, Social Security Disability Payments or other sources of income, before preparing your application. Contact the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, a homeless shelter, a housing assistance agency or shelter for domestic violence cases if you need immediate housing assistance. You can get resources from your local human or social services department. Request help from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), if you have lost your home or cannot live in it due to a natural disaster.
Most housing authorities do not offer emergency or immediate help from Section 8. Due to a shortage of funds, many authorities may stop accepting applications. Consider seeking emergency housing help from other sources. In general, the housing authorities do not consider the rent increase made by the owner or the eviction due to the breaking of a lease, as a reason to give priority to your request.