Being behind on your rent can be a very scary time. Unfortunately, many of us know that feeling all too well. In 2021, more than three million households experienced some sort of housing insecurity. That number is expected to be even higher in today’s current housing climate. If you’re experiencing housing insecurity or you’re worried about not making rent, you’re going to need help before the situation gets any worse. The good news is that you have options! One government assistance program that may be able to offer some relief is Section 8.
The Purpose Behind the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)
The Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV), also known as Section 8, has helped millions of families over the past 40 years gain access to affordable housing. Low-income households that can receive this assistance are responsible for finding their own rental unit on the private market. This unique opportunity offered by the federal government can allow families to be able to relocate to safer neighborhoods where there are often benefits. This includes better schooling systems, higher quality services, and more job options. This allows qualifying families to have more control over their circumstances, by giving them more options on where to live. This program was adopted in an effort by the federal government to take action against housing insecurity and poverty within our communities.
How Can Households Benefit from this Housing Program?
As previously stated, low-income households can benefit from this program by getting access to affordable housing. Research supports the idea that living in safer neighborhoods can have a positive impact on families and their children. For example, vulnerability to violence and crime decreases, whereas opportunities for education and employment increase! The HCV program opens up the chance for its recipients to be able to move to better areas with these opportunities!
You might be wondering how the HCV program works. Recipients are granted a voucher that is used towards the cost of rent. Again, recipients are responsible for finding their own rental unit, where the voucher is paid directly to their landlord. These vouchers don’t cover the entire cost of housing, however. The recipient pays whatever is left over after the voucher is applied each month.
Anyone who is interested in benefiting from this program needs to submit an application. The exact criteria that are required depend on the area that you live in. Both applicants and current recipients deal mainly with the local Public Housing Authority (PHA) and not the federal government. This is because the HCV program is administered and managed locally.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Section 8
Each year, millions of people benefit from the assistance that the HCV program provides. Increasing access to safe and affordable housing has proven to have positive effects on both individuals and communities. However, no federal program comes without any disadvantages.
Disadvantages of Section 8
Three disadvantages of the HCV program include the following:
Limited options for housing: Landlords and property management companies are not required to accept vouchers. For this reason, HCV recipients have limited options when it comes to finding a rental to live in.
Long waiting list: One of the biggest disadvantages of this program may be the amount of time it takes to get assistance. The application process can be confusing. Then, once approved, recipients are often placed on a waiting list before they can get the support that they need.
Not enough funds: Unfortunately, there are many more families that need housing assistance than the program can provide at one time. The program doesn’t have unlimited funding and therefore can only help so many households each year.
Advantages of Section 8
It’s important to understand the downsides of the HCV program in order to manage your expectations. However, you may find that the advantages of this program outweigh the disadvantages! With that being said, four advantages include:
More freedom of choice: Recipients find their own rentals and are not limited to just public housing. This gives them more freedom to choose where to live.
Positive impacts outside of housing: The freedom to choose where to live enables families to choose a rental in a neighborhood that can have good schooling and more employment opportunities.
Decreased housing insecurity: The main goal of the program is to help households gain access to affordable and safe housing. This assistance is geared toward low-income families that otherwise couldn’t afford decent housing.
Motivates housing developers: In addition to directly helping households by offering financial assistance, the program also encourages housing developers to build more affordable housing. They do this through tax incentives and more.
One of the biggest expenses that any household deals with is the cost of housing. This is especially true for families that are renting. In many places, a landlord can raise rent for any reason. This is bad news for households that are already struggling financially. Housing insecurity affects millions of people across the United States. Luckily, the federal government provides programs that help with this growing problem.
Qualifying households may be able to benefit from the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program. This program allows voucher recipients to find their own rental home on the private market. The vouchers that they qualified for then go towards the cost of rent expenses. The recipient’s ability to decide where they live can have a positive impact in many ways. The household may have the opportunity to live in a safer area that they could not have otherwise afforded. Moving to a better neighborhood can increase job options and the quality of education. In addition, it can decrease the family’s vulnerability to being exposed to violent crimes.
In order to be eligible for the HCV program, recipients must meet certain requirements. The exact criteria depends on the area. This is because this program is operated by local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs). Applicants and current recipients can expect to work directly with their local PHA. Lastly, the HCV program doesn’t only help renters. Some current recipients may be able to use their vouchers to become homeowners!