The Housing Choice Voucher Program (also known as Housing Choice Voucher Program Section 8) is the nation’s largest housing assistance program. Under the program, eligible recipients receive housing vouchers that they can use to rent apartments or homes from participating landlords. Voucher recipients are responsible for paying 30 percent of a unit’s housing costs, with the voucher covering the remainder of the rest up to a limit, called a payment standard, that is based on local estimates of fair market rate. Seventy-five percent of new recipients of vouchers must have “extremely low income,” defined as below the federal poverty level or 30 percent of the area median income, whichever is higher.
The Section 8 program is operated nationally by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in partnership with some 2,170 state and local public housing agencies (PHAs). In Oklahoma, Section 8 vouchers are administered by the Oklahoma Housing Finance Authority and by some 105 local PHAs that are responsible for establishing fair market rate standards and verifying that rental units meet federal housing quality standards. Each agency has a cap on the number of vouchers it administers.
Nationally, housing choice vouchers serve some 5 million people, of whom 40 percent are children and 13 percent are over the age of 62. The program has been shown to sharply reduce homelessness, lift more than a million people above the poverty line, and give families more options of where to live. However, due to funding limitations, all federal housing assistance programs combined serve only about 1 in 4 households that would qualify for assistance.
In addition to vouchers that can be used to rent units that tenants select, up to 30 percent of vouchers can be used for subsidies — called project-based vouchers — that are tied to a particular property rather than a particular family and thus can help pay for the construction or rehabilitation of housing for people with low incomes. Project-based vouchers serve some 245,000 households nationally.