The History of the Section 8 Program


Section 8 is a federal housing program that was established during the 1960s and the 1970s. The name Section 8 was coined from the 8th section of the Housing Act of 1937 which authorized payment of house rental assistance to private landlords on behalf of the low-income households of America. The current Section 8 housing program has evolved from several past housing assistance programs. The Section 8 voucher assistance program was started by the federal government during the Great Depression period. It was in this period that Congress passed the U.S. Housing Act to curb housing crisis in the country. Subsidy programs were created in the 1960s and 1970s to facilitate low-income housing and assist families pay rent. The U.S. Housing Act was amended by the Section 236 Leased Housing Program which was not a pure housing allowance program. Through the Section 236 program, federal housing authorities chose eligible low-income families, allocated them private housing units available, and determined the rents they would pay. The housing authorities then signed lease agreements with the private landlords accepting to pay the differences between tenants’ rent and the market rental fee for similar housing units. Housing authorities were responsible for maintenance of the housing units and the Section 236 tenants’ incomes were reviewed annually to determine their eligibility for the program.

Section 8 in the 1970s

During the 1970s, housing authorities discovered that low-income households were no longer facing substandard housing as the main housing challenge. The main problem was that a high percentage of the incomes of these families were being spent on housing rent. It was then that Congress developed the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 and amended the U.S. Housing Act of 1937 to create the Section 8 Program. Under the newly formed Section 8 Program, tenants were supposed to pay up to 30 percent of their income to rent while the federal housing program paid the rest of the rent. At its inception, Section 8 had Existing Housing Certificate, Substantial Rehabilitation , and New Construction programs. Other programs that were later on added include the Voucher Program, Moderate Rehabilitation, Project-based Certificate, and HUD-VASH program.
Presently, Section 8 Programs are also voucher based, and the type of vouchers offered are either project-based or tenant based. Under this voucher system, voucher holders take a housing lease from a specific apartment complex or from private sector landlords. The holders then pay share of the rent which is mostly 30 percent of their adjusted incomes as determined under Section 8. Beneficiary tenants can choose anywhere to live and as long as the premises meets the standards of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

About Public Housing Agencies (PHAs)

Public housing agencies are independent institutions that assist low- income families to access services of the local public housing authority. Agencies are located in all counties or states and public housing applicants can get information, apply, or consult the public housing agencies and get their public housing concerns addressed. Activities of PHAs are funded through the housing subsidies provided by the federal government, rents paid by tenants, and through investment revenues the PHAs receive.

Learn About the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program in the U.S.

This is the most important part of the federally funded Section 8 Housing program because it pays the highest portion of rent and utilities nationwide. It allows low income families to choose, purchase, or lease privately owned low income rental homes at affordable rates. It is a tenant-based assistance program that enables tenants to change rental units and even use their monthly subsidy vouchers to buy homes. Holders of Section 8 vouchers are required to pay portions of their incomes on rent while the voucher caters for the remaining portion of rent. The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program was formed to ensure that families pay a reasonable portion of their incomes on rent while the government also takes care of the rent to a specified limit. The difference between Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher with other Section 8 Programs is that it allows families to choose their preferred housing, and in addition, also the house chosen is always privately owned.

About the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

HUD is a cabinet department formed in 1965 through the Department of Housing and Urban Development Act. It operates under the Executive branch of the United States federal government. HUD is administered by the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. HUD’s mission is to provide quality affordable homes and to protect citizens from discrimination when they try to access housing amenities in the country.

About Section 8 Program Requirements in the U.S.

The Section 8 program has general eligibility requirements that are set for anyone intending to qualify for Section 8 housing programs. Applicants of public housing and Section 8 vouchers must satisfy the definition of family status as specified by the Public Housing Authority. A family could be an individual or a group of people who must meet certain standards in order to qualify for Section 8. Another qualification is that the income of applicants must be below certain limits established by the HUD. This is because the Section 8 program is tailored for low-income families. Income is classified as extremely low income if it is 30 percent for an area’s median income level. Very low income category is for applicants whose incomes are 50 percent of an area’s median income level and the low income category is for applicants whose income are 80 percent of an area’s median income level. The third qualification is that applicants must be American citizens and non-citizens can also qualify for assistance if they meet eligible immigrant status. Additionally, Section 8 Housing is granted to applicants who have not been evicted for drug-related charges or convicted for criminal activity in any assisted housing project. It is important to understand that these Section 8 qualifications are just some of the requirements for Section 8 program eligibility and that each state or county has its own stipulations regarding Section 8 eligibility. The Section 8 program requirements are also regularly revised by HUD and for this reason beneficiaries must keep up with the updates to avoid losing their subsidies.