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What should I know about Section 8 housing?

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Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8) in Georgia Resources

Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8) in Georgia

What should I know? +

Contents


What type of housing assistance do I have?

This article is about housing choice vouchers, a form of government-funded housing assistance. Housing choice vouchers are also known as the Section 8 program. The information in this article may not apply to other forms of housing assistance. This article is not about like project-based housing assistance housing or public housing. It’s important to be clear about what kind of housing assistance you have because there are different rules for each type. If you’re not sure what kind of housing assistance you have, a good question to ask yourself is “who do I pay my rent to?”

  • If you pay your rent to your local Public Housing Authority, then you live in public housing.

  • You live in Project Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) housing if :

    • you applied directly to an apartment where the government pays the landlord rent for some or all of the units in the complex, and 

    • you pay your rent to the landlord. 

This is the most common type of subsidized housing. 

  • You are receiving Housing Choice Voucher assistance (Section 8) if:  

    • you were able to choose your apartment or house on your own, and 

    • a local housing authority pays a portion of your rent to the landlord and 

    • you pay your income-based rent to the landlord.

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What should I know about the Section 8 housing?

Section 8, also called a Housing Choice Voucher, pays all or a part of the rent to private landlords on behalf of low-income households. Under Section 8 you would pay only about 30% of your income in rent. The landlord signs a Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) contract with the housing authority. The HAP includes a Tenancy Addendum. This addendum explains your rights and responsibilities. You may have a second lease with the landlord, but if terms in your lease are different than the HAP, the HAP terms are the ones that are enforceable.

 

The Housing Choice Voucher program is managed by public housing authorities or, in some areas, the Department of Community Affairs. If your voucher is through the Atlanta Housing Authority or another “Moving To Work” jurisdiction, then you may:

  • have additional work requirements and 

  • specific rules that are not covered in this article. 

 

If you have questions about your voucher status or requirements, call Atlanta Legal Aid or Georgia Legal Services. They may be able to provide advice or legal help.

 

If you are approved for a voucher, you must then find a landlord willing to accept the voucher. Once you find a landlord, the rental property must pass inspection by the public housing authority. After the unit passes inspection, the housing authority will sign a HAP contract with your landlord. Your landlord may ask you to sign a separate lease. You should never sign a lease with the landlord before the HAP is signed. If you do, you may then be “on the hook” for market rent if something goes wrong with the HAP process. 

 

At the end of your lease the Housing Choice Voucher Program allows you to move without losing your voucher. The landlord cannot evict you during the initial term of the lease except for non-payment of your rent or for good cause. At the end of each lease you or the landlord can choose not to renew the lease. 

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What are my rights and responsibilities?

Your rights and duties as a subsidized housing "tenant" are the same for any landlord-tenant relationship. You must:

  • comply with the lease and the program requirements, 

  • pay your share of rent on time, 

  • maintain the unit in good condition and 

  • notify the housing authority of any changes in income or family size.

 

If your assistance is terminated by the housing authority, you will now be responsible for the full rent amount. However, you have the right to an informal hearing with the housing authority if:

  • Your application is denied;

  • Your income is recalculated;

  • Your utility allowance is recalculated;

  • Your family unit size is determined;

  • Your assistance is terminated. 

 

If you are a victim of domestic violence, you may not be terminated from the program because of criminal activity directly related to the abuse. 

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What are my landlord’s rights and responsibilities?

Under Section 8, the housing authority administers the voucher program. If the landlord does not meet their obligations under the lease, the housing authority may stop payments to the landlord. You will get a new voucher. The landlord must:

  • Screen families who apply to determine their suitability as renters.

  • Comply with fair housing laws.

  • Maintain the housing unit. They must make necessary repairs in a timely manner and report their completion to the housing authority.

  • Comply with the terms of the Housing Assistance Payments Contract.

  • Collect the rent due by the tenant and comply with and enforce the lease.

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What are the government’s rights and responsibilities?

The housing authority has the right to deny or terminate assistance to people: 

  • who do not qualify for the program or 

  • who violate the terms of the program. 

 

Some common reasons for denial or termination are:

  • Family members don’t sign consent forms or don’t submit citizenship or eligible immigration status to the housing authority,

  • A household member was evicted from assisted housing for a drug-related criminal activity within 3 years,

  • A household member is required to register as a lifetime sex offender, or

  • A household member engages in drug-related or violent criminal activity.

 

The housing authority is responsible for creating procedures for informal hearings. The housing authority must give you written notice informing you of the procedures when a decision is made that entitles you to a hearing. The notice must include the deadline for requesting the hearing.

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What can I do? +

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How can I apply for Section 8 voucher housing?

To be eligible for Section 8 voucher housing:

  • Your income must not be greater than a 50% of the area median income, which is determined by the area or county you live in.

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or in a category of noncitizen who has eligible immigration status 

You may call your local public housing authority to see if you are eligible for Section 8 voucher housing. You may also contact the regional office of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs ("DCA"). Call 1-800-359-4663 to find out where the DCA regional office is in your region. In most areas that offer Section 8 voucher housing, there is a very long waiting list.

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How does the waiting list work? 

Long waiting periods are common. Housing authorities and DCA may close the waiting list when there are more families on the list than can be assisted in the near future. Housing authorities and DCA maintain waiting lists for each county. 

 

When selecting a family from its waiting list, DCA will give preference to those with the following characteristics: 

  • when the household lives, works or has been hired to work in the county in which they applied or 
  • families with incomes at or below 30% of the area median income.

 

Families who qualify for these two preferences will move ahead of other families on the list who do not qualify for any preference. If you are not given a preference and you feel that you qualify for one of the above, you can request an informal review of the decision. If you apply and are told you are not eligible, you may request an informal review of that decision.

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How much rent should I expect to pay?

The amount of rental assistance you get will depend on: 

  • your household size, 

  • your income and 

  • the rent your landlord charges. 

The housing authority determines how much rent it will pay to the landlord based on a local “payment standard.” A family that receives a rental voucher can select a unit that rents at or below the local payment standard. In this case your rent will be approximately 30% of your income after deductions. Some housing authorities will allow you to rent a unit that rents for more than the local payment standard. But, in that case, you will end up paying more than 30% of your monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities. Of course, the family's rent share also changes when its income or family circumstances change.

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Where can I use my voucher?

In general, you can use your voucher anywhere in the country. This is called “portability.” However, some housing authorities and DCA have rules about when you can and cannot move outside of their jurisdiction. 

For example, when you receive a voucher from the Department of Community Affairs, you can look for housing anywhere in DCA's jurisdiction. If you lived within DCA's jurisdiction when you applied, you may take your voucher and look for housing outside of DCA's jurisdiction. If you did not live within DCA's jurisdiction when you applied, you must use your voucher the first time within DCA's jurisdiction. In addition, DCA limits the number of moves to one a year, unless there are emergency circumstances that make the move necessary. You must: 

  • notify DCA ahead of time, 

  • terminate your existing lease according to the appropriate lease provisions, and 

  • find acceptable alternate housing. 

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What happens once I find a unit and it passes inspection?

 Once DCA or the housing authority approves an eligible family's lease and housing unit: 

  • the family and the landlord sign a lease and, at the same time,

  • the landlord and DCA/housing authority sign a housing assistance contract which runs for the same term as the lease.

 

This means that you, the landlord and DCA/housing authority all have responsibilities within the program. Remember, even if you have a separate lease with your landlord, the HAP contract rules are the ones that everyone must follow. This is true even if they are different from the terms of your lease with the landlord.

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Can I add a child in my care to my housing lease?

The law only requires that a caregiver (grandparent or otherwise) have written permission from a parent to have a child in the home of the caregiver. You do not need a power of attorney or guardianship over a child in your care to add them to your lease. If a landlord or housing program in Georgia is asking you for more than written permission, contact a legal services attorney with the Kinship Care Hotline at 1-855-357-6566.

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 What do I do if I have a dispute with my Housing Authority or DCA?

There are certain circumstances where you are entitled to an “informal hearing” with the housing authority. You must have the opportunity for an informal hearing if:

  • Your application is denied;

  • Your income is recalculated;

  • Your utility allowance is recalculated;

  • Your family unit size is determined;

  • Your assistance is terminated.

 

Each PHA creates its own procedures for informal hearings. However, your PHA must give you written notice informing you of the procedures when a decision is made that entitles you to a hearing. The notice must include the deadline for requesting the hearing. Contact Atlanta Legal Aid Society or Georgia Legal Services, if:

  • you receive a notice of “proposed termination” of your voucher, or 
  • you have a dispute with your housing authority, 

 

Before your hearing, you are entitled to review your tenant file at the housing authority. You are allowed to make copies of any relevant documents, but the housing authority can charge you reasonable fees for copies. 

 

If the hearing is on a notice of proposed termination, the housing authority will present its information first. They will try to show why your voucher should be terminated. If your hearing is for another reason, then you may be asked to go first. In either case, you will have a chance to present your side of the story. You can bring witnesses to your hearing and cross-examine the housing authority’s witnesses. An impartial hearing officer, who may or may not be an employee of the housing authority, will make a final decision in your case. They may or may not tell you that decision at the hearing. In any case, you are entitled to, and should receive, written notice of the hearing officer’s decision in the mail.

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Resources

  • Watch this video to learn how the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) will protect victims of domestic violence who live in federally subsidized or public housing.

Rental Assistance Offices

The five regional Rental Assistance Offices of the Department of Community Affairs in Georgia are located in the cities of Albany, Athens, Carrollton, Eastman, and Waycross. The addresses and telephone numbers of the Regional Offices are listed below.

 

Visit this map to see where the local offices are for each of these counties. The map also indicates where local housing authorities administer the voucher programs.

 

Albany Regional Office

323 Pine Avenue, Suite 202

Albany, GA 31701-2587

229-430-4384

 

Eastman Regional Office

100 Pearl Bates Lane

Eastman, GA 31023-4069

478-374-6962

 

Athens Regional Office

485 Newton Bridge Road, Suite 2

Athens, GA 30607-1169

706-369-5636

 

Waycross Regional Office

960-A City Boulevard

Waycross, GA 31501-4239

912-285-6280

 

Carrollton Regional Office

185 Parkwood Circle

Carrollton, GA 30117-0609

770-836-6660

Last Review and Update: Nov 20, 2019