Voucher Program Rules

Voucher programs help people with low-income pay for rent in any privately-owned apartment that meets certain standards and where the landlord accepts payment from the voucher program. This means you find a place to live, and once you have one, you pay your landlord a portion of your monthly household income for rent, while the voucher program pays the rest.

Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program

The Section 8 housing choice voucher program (also called “tenant-based Section 8”) is the largest voucher program. It is paid for by the federal government and managed by local public housing authorities (PHAs). The PHAs make sure that the housing you get is safe, decent, and affordable.

Other voucher programs

This page describes Section 8 housing choice vouchers in detail. Here are some other voucher programs that work similarly:

How Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs) Help

With Section 8, you pay about 30% to 40% of your monthly household income for rent in privately-owned housing, while the government pays the rest.

Note: You may end up eventually paying more than 30% to 40% of your income for rent if the landlord raises the rent after you move in.

Once you have a housing choice voucher, you can keep using it even if you move to another city or state, as long as there is a PHA that can manage the voucher in the area where you want to live.

Most people use their housing choice vouchers to get apartments or single family homes, but if you have a disability you can also use a voucher to pay for a group home, a shared place, a room, or an assisted living facility.

Other Section 8 benefits

In addition to housing choice vouchers. Section 8 offers other benefits:

Who Section 8 Helps

To get any type of Section 8 benefits, you must:

  • Have very low income (less than 50% of the area median income)
  • Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible immigrant. Eligible immigrants include permanent legal residents, refugees, asylees, and lawful temporary residents.

You may be more likely to qualify for Section 8 if you:

  • Have a disability
  • Have children
  • Are age 62 or older
  • Are a U.S. Armed Services veteran, widow, or widower
  • Are experiencing homelessness
  • Are in a shelter

When you apply, the people reviewing your application take into account:

  • Your history with federal housing programs
  • Your criminal background
  • Your credit history

Learn more about how to apply for Section 8 vouchers at public housing authorities.

Your history with federal housing programs

You might not get Section 8 benefits if you or someone in your household has had one of these problems with a public housing authority in the past:

  • You were evicted from public housing
  • You were forced out of another Section 8 program for bad behavior
  • You committed fraud or other crimes related to the housing program
  • You owe money to a housing authority

If you don’t qualify for Section 8 because of one of these problems and the problem was related to your disability, you can ask for an exception to this policy as a reasonable accommodation. For example, if you have a mental illness and your problem with your housing happened because you were not on a medication you need, you may be eligible for Section 8 again if you explain that you are now receiving treatment.

Getting a Section 8 Voucher

After you apply, your name is put on a waiting list. When your name reaches the top of the waiting list, the housing authority reviews your application and personal information to see if you qualify for Section 8. They look at things like:

  • How many people are in your household
  • Their age, sex, and relationship to each other
  • The medical conditions and disabilities of household members

For example, if you have a disability and need a live-in aide or overnight support staff, you may be able to get an apartment with a larger number of bedrooms.

Section 8 Project-Based Vouchers

When you are approved for a Section 8 housing choice voucher, the PHA may tell you that to get your voucher, you have to live in a specific unit for at least one year. This is called a “project-based voucher.” After you have lived in the specific unit for a year, you can ask to get help with your rent in another privately-owned unit and from then on, the voucher rules are exactly the same as any other Section 8 housing choice voucher.

Finding a Place

After the Section 8 briefing, you have to find a place quickly. The PHA usually gives you between 60 days (two months) and 120 days (four months) to find a place. In addition to the list of landlords your PHA gives you, check the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) Housing Locator for apartments in your price range.

Tip: If you have a disability and need more time to find a place, try asking for extra time as a reasonable accommodation.

If it is hard to find a place within the price range given by your PHA, the PHA may increase your rental amount slightly. If you still can’t find a place, the PHA can submit a request to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) asking for a “specially approved payment amount” that lets you get a place with higher rent. Ask your PHA to help you in any way they can.

Landlords are not legally required to accept Section 8 vouchers and may turn you down if you want to use vouchers. However, it is illegal for them to refuse to rent to you because you have a disability. If you think a landlord is discriminating against you and refusing to rent to you because of your disability, ask the housing authority for help.

If you think you have been discriminated against, you can also use these resources:

Reasonable accommodations when choosing housing

If you find a place you like, but it needs some modifications to be accessible for you, the housing authority may give higher payments to the landlord to help cover the cost of those modifications. As long as the modifications you need are reasonable, landlords must allow them.

After You Find a Place

Once you find a place to rent that accepts your voucher:

  • Landlords may check your credit history, criminal background, and rental history before approving your application.
  • The PHA must inspect the rental unit before they start making payments to the landlord.

If the landlord accepts your application and the rental unit passes the PHA’s inspection, you can move into your place. You pay about 30% of your income as rent and the Section 8 program pays the rest.

Learn more about how your income and your earnings affect your rent.

Learn more