Section 8 Participant Questions
Who qualifies to receive Section 8 Rental Assistance?
Persons eligible to receive Section 8 assistance are those whose income falls below guidelines set by the Federal government. At this time, the maximum eligibility income is 50% of the median income for Stanislaus County and is broken down by the number of family members per household.
How do families receive Section 8 Rental Assistance?
Due to the limited amount of Federal funding, the availability of Section 8 assistance nationwide is severely limited. Families who apply to receive Section 8 rental assistance must typically wait from 6 months to 10+ years to receive this benefit. The Section 8 Program is not an entitlement program. This means that not every family whose income makes them eligible for Section 8 automatically receives assistance. Consequently, the family must apply and wait to receive Section 8 assistance.
The Housing Authority maintains a wait list and assists families from that list. Each Housing Authority may have different wait list criteria which determines where a family will be placed on the waiting list. Some agencies base wait list placement on the date and time the application was received or by lottery while other agencies may have preferences based on an applicant’s housing circumstances. Wait list positions are not fixed and a family may move up or down on the list depending upon changes in their and other families’ circumstances.
Does the Stanislaus County Housing Authority currently have any “wait list preferences”?
Yes. All families are generally placed on the Section 8 waiting list by order of date and time of application receipt from the Housing Authority. However, families who are in the following housing circumstances can receive a preference on the waiting list:
While an applicant may receive a preference on the waiting list, the length of time it takes for an applicant to actually receive a Housing Choice Voucher depends upon the availability of Vouchers. For example, if an applicant claims a preference and is placed higher on the waiting list, it could take several months before receiving a voucher if the Authority has no vouchers to issue to waiting list applicants.
How do I apply for the Section 8 Program?
A family can only apply when the Housing Authority announces a Section 8 wait list “opening”. The Housing Authority periodically notifies the public in as many ways as possible, e.g. newspaper ads, mailings to community groups, news articles, etc., when applications will be accepted.
The last application opening was held in September of 2001. The Housing Authority admitted over 8,000 families to the waiting list in the year 2001 and the waiting list is not presently open for new applicants. Since it is not known when the Authority will be reopening the list, we recommend that interested applicants check the status of any future wait list openings by contacting the Authority’s Section 8 Department every five to six months.
What happens when a family reaches the top of the wait list?
When a family reaches the top of the wait list they are contacted by the Housing Authority’s Section 8 Department for an eligibility assessment interview. In the interview, the family composition, income and need for housing assistance are verified. If the family is eligible to receive housing assistance, the family’s application is processed to receive Section 8 assistance.
The family is required to attend a mandatory briefing session wherein the Section 8 program and the family’s obligations as a Section 8 program participant are explained. Additionally, the housing authority’s representative provides suggestions on how to search for housing and on the qualities that make a good tenant.
At the end of the briefing the family will receive their Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher which authorizes them to begin their search for housing. A family must possess a voucher with current dates as proof they are currently approved by the Housing Authority to search for rental housing and participate in the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
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How does the family find a rental unit?
The family must locate their own rental unit. They check newspaper advertisements, vacant unit listings that owners submit to the Housing Authority, “For Rent” signs, etc. The unit they locate must be the appropriate bedroom size (some exceptions are allowed) and the landlord must be willing to participate in the Section 8 program and to abide by the Section 8 program rules.
We urge property owners to list your properties with the Housing Authority and encourage you to ask your fellow property owners to do the same. You may list a unit by calling the Housing Authority at (209) 557-2000 and request a “Rental Listing Form” or you can download this form in the Section 8 area.
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How is the family’s rent share calculated under the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
There are five factors which affect a tenant’s rent under the Housing Choice Voucher Program. What must be known prior to determining the tenant’s rent is the following:
Under the Housing Choice Voucher Program the rent which can be approved is based upon two factors. The first factor is whether the rent requested is comparable to other units renting on the open-market in that neighborhood.
The second factor is the tenant rent portion limitation. Under the Housing Choice Voucher Program, the family is allowed to pay up to 40% of their monthly adjusted income towards the “gross rent”. The Gross Rent is the rent the owner is asking plus the Utility Allowance adjustment. The amount of the Utility Allowance is dependent upon what utilities the tenant pays. The tenant pays the difference between the Housing Authority’s maximum subsidy and the rent to the owner.
I am receiving Section 8 in Stanislaus County and wish to move. Can I transfer my Section 8 to another county?
Yes. This feature is known as “Portability” of Section 8 Rental Assistance. Prior to giving notice to your landlord, we recommend you contact the Housing Authority to ensure you are following all steps necessary to ensure timely processing of this request. In order to request portability, the Housing Authority will need to know general information such as where you will be relocating and the Housing Authority which you would like for us to send your current file information. To be eligible to exercise portability, you must not have vacated your current unit in violation of the terms of your lease. Your portability request will be denied in accordance with HUD requirements and violations must be cured prior to requesting portability.
I am currently on Section 8 and have had a change in my income or family size. How do I report this change?
To report a change, applicants and current program participants must complete a “Section 8 Change Report”. These forms can be obtained in the Housing Authority lobby and are to be completed for every change which occurs in your family composition, family income, assets, and family contact information. This information must be reported in writing to adequately document that this information was reported to the Housing Authority. Upon receipt of this information, the Housing Authority then determines whether an appointment is necessary to review your new circumstances or whether this change will be reviewed at your annual eligibility interview. In either case, you will receive notification that we have received this information. If the Housing Authority does not contact you within 30 days from the date the information was submitted, please call the Housing Authority to confirm receipt. This form can be downloaded in the Section 8 area.
Are there any restrictions on who I can rent to under the Section 8 Program?
Yes. In 1998 HUD revised the regulations which limits circumstances under which a property owner can rent his unit to a relative under the Section 8 Program. The Housing Authority can permit such leasing only if it is determined that the leasing of a relative’s unit would accommodate a person with disabilities.
For instance, if a property owner had a rental unit close to his/her property which was handicapped accessible in order to provide attendant assistance to a disabled family member, the Housing Authority could allow leasing to a relative. The relationship which HUD defines as a relative is the parent (including stepparents), child, grandparent, grandchild, sister, or brother of the Section 8 Voucher holder or any of his/her family members.
What is necessary for the Housing Authority to approve a rental unit?
Upon receipt of the Request for Tenancy Approval (this is the form new program participants receive during the program orientation meeting where the program is described), the Housing Authority will review the rent and tenant’s income to ensure the tenant’s rent portion is within the 40% tenant rent portion limitation described earlier in this section. If the rent calculation is verified as O.K. to process, an appointment will be made with the landlord to inspect the unit. Housing Authority staff usually try to schedule the inspection within 3-5 working days.
When the appointment for the inspection is scheduled, the unit is assumed to be ready for occupancy. The Housing Authority inspector is required to verify the that the unit meets Housing Quality Standards (HQS). To view the HQS requirements, visit our HQS page.
These are Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) established standards designed to insure that units on which rent subsidies are paid are decent, safe and sanitary. In addition to inspecting for HQS compliance, the inspector may also note items needing repair that are not required but recommended for preventative maintenance.
The following link is information on how to address tenancy when a unit is under foreclosures.
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