Section 8 Housing Assistance

Updated February 20, 2020

Section 8, the nation’s largest federal rental assistance program, assists over 5 million people in 2.2 million low-income households ― helping these families afford decent, stable housing and avoid homelessness.



Section 8 of the United States Housing Act of 1937 provides financial support and aid to hundreds of families but it has its roots in the times of the Great Depression.

In the year 1937, the Congress Government of the United States passed the U.S Housing Act, which sparked off the beginning of federal housing assistance in the country.

Over the years the Housing Act was amended several times to adapt to the changing economic climate and the needs and requirements of the people.

It was in the year 1974 that Housing Choice Voucher Program — often simply known as Section 8, was created and since then it has become the dominant form of federal housing assistance.

What is Section 8?

Section 8 program is federally funded but run by a network of about 2,250 state and local housing agencies that provide vouchers to low-income families to help them afford decent & safe housing.

Groups targeted by Section 8 include low-income families with children, the elderly and people with disabilities who spent a large chunk of their meagre earnings on housing.

Priority is given to extremely low-income families with children, those with household earnings less than 30% of an area’s median income or the poverty line, whichever is higher. 1

How Does Section 8 Work?


If you do receive assistance under the this program, you will receive a voucher that funds 70% of your rent and utilities, but as the renter it becomes your responsibility to pay for the remaining balance — usually between 30% and 40% of your income.

And as your family earns more, your vouchers will be proportionately reduced. In any typical month, the maximum allowed voucher is $2,200.

If a landlord agrees to rent to a Section 8 tenant, the local agency will first inspect the property to make sure it meets certain standards. If the property passes the inspection, then the landlord will be paid directly each month by the Section 8 program.

Fair Market Rent (FMR)

The amount of subsidy that the federal government will pay under the housing choice voucher program (Section 8) is predetermined by the “Fair Market Rent” (FMR) values for each county in the country.

The Fair Market Rent is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s estimate of the amount needed to cover the rent and utility costs of a modest housing unit in a given local area.

Every year, HUD compiles a list of the Fair Market Rents for over 2,500 metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties. For example, the FMR for one-bedroom unit in Clarke County, VA is about $1,400 while the same unit in Knox County, IL is appraised at $530. 2

How Do I Apply for Voucher?

If you are interested in applying for a voucher, you contact either the local PHA serving your community or the Office of Public Housing within your local HUD office.

However, since the demand for housing assistance often exceeds the limited resources available to HUD and the local housing agencies, long waiting periods (of three to six years) are not uncommon. 3

And yet there is no guarantee that you will ever receive a spot on the waiting list.

For further information about Section 8 voucher program, including eligibility requirements for both tenants and landlords’ residences, can be found from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development @

  1. To view the current State Extremely Low (30%), Very Low (50%) and Low (80%) Income Limits, please click here.()
  2. You can access FMR county by county here()
  3. The Section 8 program has historically been oversubscribed and waiting lists can run into the years. To find out about wait times in your area call your local public housing authority.()