July 10, 2008

Public Housing vs. Section 8: A Brief Overview

by Jessica Wright, Community Blogger.

“Section 8” and “public housing” are terms used a lot when discussing affordable housing. But do people really understand the difference between the two? That’s what Kate Perkins and I set out to discover on Wednesday morning, as we talked to random people on the street as well as business owners along Martin Luther King Jr Ave. SE.

Most people we spoke with had heard of Section 8 (which is now called the “Housing Choice Voucher Program”, or HCVP) and public housing. People seemed to understand that they were both for low-income people, and a number of those we spoke with recognized that Section 8 was a voucher program. However, several people knew nothing about either program. Not surprisingly, those who did not participate in either program knew the least about them. A number of individuals did not even know anyone participating in either program.

To clarify the meaning of these terms, I collected the following information from the DCHA (DC Housing Authority) and HUD (U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development) websites:

Section 8 (Housing Choice Voucher Program)

Who is eligible? Everyone who meets the low-income guidelines set by HUD.

How Does it Work? A qualifying individual must apply for a housing choice voucher. Using the voucher, the individual can find an apartment (anywhere in the nation) that accepts vouchers.

What Do I Pay? Tenants pay 30% of their monthly income; the voucher pays the difference up to the local market rate for the apartment. If the rent is higher than the market rate, the tenant must pay the extra amount.

How Many People Are Enrolled? Nationally, 1.4 million households participate in the HCVP.

The DCHA also offers a Housing Choice Voucher Moderate Rehabilitation—Project Based Voucher (formerly known as the Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation Program). This assistance cannot be transferred to another unit; it is provided only for the unit in which a family lives.

Public Housing

Who is Eligible? Low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. Housing Authorities use income limits determined by HUD; the lower income limit is at 80% and very low income limit is at 50% of the median income for the area.

How Does it Work? The government subsidizes the construction and operation of housing developments. Participants must apply through their local Housing Authority.

What Do I Pay? The rent participants pay is determined by the highest of the following: 30% of monthly adjusted income; 10% of monthly income; welfare rent, if applicable; $25 minimum rent or higher amount (up to $50) set by a Housing Authority.

How Many People Are Enrolled? There are approximately 1.2 million households nation-wide that are living in public housing.

Much more information on these programs is available at the DCHA and HUD websites—take the time to educate yourself and others!

No comments: