How to Apply for Section 8


Seniors exploring how to apply for Section 8 housing will find that it is administered locally by authorized public housing agencies (PHAs) although it is federally funded. All potential applicants investigating how to sign up for Section 8 assistance must go through their local or regional PHAs to apply. Seniors with questions about their eligibility or details about the process of how to apply for housing assistance can speak to representatives from their local PHAs for answers and support. It is often helpful to have an overview of the Section 8 application process and the information and documentation associated with it before speaking with a representative. Seniors seeking to sign up for HUD housing assistance can significantly reduce possible delays and avoid common application challenges by gathering much of the necessary information and supporting evidence in advance.

Section 8 Applications

Applications for Section 8 housing are available only from an applicant’s local PHA and may be requested by contacting a PHA representative by phone, by email or in person. Applicants attempting to register for Section 8 housing program assistance will be required to supply documentary evidence of the information on their applications to prove eligibility within a limited period after initiating a request. To apply for Section 8 housing, applicants typically must be able to document the following three aspects of their application:

  • Family composition
  • Income
  • Age and disability status

These elements on the Section 8 application help representatives at local PHA offices determine if petitioners meet the eligibility requirements for housing assistance. Additionally, while all qualified residents may sign up for HUD housing assistance, some select applicants will get preferential consideration based on this information.

Section 8 Family Composition Information

To sign up for Section 8, applicants will need to demonstrate that they and their families meet HUD’s family composition guidelines. The Section 8 application will ask petitioners to supply details about each individual in the household. Family composition impacts not only decisions about what size and type of housing an applicant can receive rental assistance for, but also whether an individual or family qualifies for preferential treatment under the local PHA’s market-specific policies. HUD regulations define a family as an individual or group of persons.

If an individual or family applying for housing assistance shows evidence by the documentation to be a qualifying “elderly family” or “disabled family,” then eligibility may be directly and positively influenced, as well. PHAs are authorized by HUD to screen applicants registering for Section 8 housing program assistance through supplemental, market-specific policies and preference guidelines established by the PHA’s administrative plan. These additional policy guidelines may include allowing alternative combinations of individuals to qualify as a family unit. Information about region-specific rules are available only from local PHA representatives. HUD does not discriminate (or allow PHAs to discriminate) by sexual orientation (actual or perceived), gender identity or marital status. If a senior suspects discrimination, then he or she should file a housing discrimination complaint.

Seniors applying for housing assistance can expect to be asked for some or all of the following records, as applicable, in conjunction with their applications:

  • Marriage licenses
  • Birth certificates or adoption records
  • Foster care records
  • Employment contracts or pay stubs for all household earners
  • Proof of address for all claimed members of the applicant’s family

For the Section 8 application purposes, children who are not actively living in a home due to temporary removal and assignment to foster care are considered by HUD to remain part of the family unit. Families signing up for HUD housing programs will, therefore, be advised to include such children on their applications. Accordingly, information documenting the children’s situations, such as birth certificates and court records, may be requested. Download our free housing guide for seniors to find out which documents are needed during the Section 8 application process.

Section 8 Family Income Eligibility Information

Individuals and families applying for Section 8 housing assistance will have their adjusted gross annual household incomes compared to HUD income limits as part of the PHA’s eligibility determination. During the Section 8 application process, families may be considered low income, very low income or low income and in conjunction with other government programs. Federally mandated income limits are updated annually and operate on a sliding scale, which takes into account both income and family size. To sign up for Section 8 assistance, applicants will need to provide documentation of their income status. For examples of the documentation needed to apply for Section 8 housing, download our detailed housing guide for seniors here.

Section 8 Disability Eligibility Information

Individuals signing up for HUD housing assistance will be screened for qualifying disabilities as part of their eligibility assessment. Disability determinations may also impact the types of housing for which an applicant is eligible. Individuals applying for housing assistance will be examined against HUD’s strictly enforced guidelines regarding the determination of disability status. As such, they can expect to provide documentation of any claimed disabilities in the form of financial or medical records that demonstrate a medical diagnosis of a physical or mental impairment, that are evidence that the claimed impairment prohibits or substantially limits opportunities for gainful employment or that note a terminal or chronic nature of the disability/impairment. In the event that an individual is legally blind, additional documentation may be required during the Section 8 application process at the discretion of the PHA.