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What You Need to Know About Section 8 Vouchers

Authored By: Georgia Legal Services Program® LSC Funded

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What You Need to Know About Section 8 Vouchers

Susan Reif
Georgia Legal Services Program
Last Revised: December 2003


The Section 8 Rental Housing Voucher Program is operated by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA). This program is administered by DCA in 149 of Georgia's 159 counties by five regional offices located around the State. The remaining 10 counties are served by their local housing authority. This program is funded totally by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Currently, the Program serves over 16,000 Georgia families. The Department of Community Affairs provides a subsidy payment directly to the landlord on behalf of the program participant. The amount of the subsidy is based primarily upon the participant's income.

How Does the Section 8 Program Help Pay Rent?

If eligible, the family or individual will receive a rental voucher in which DCA agrees to pay a rental subsidy directly to the landlord for the family's rent. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount paid by DCA.

How Much of My Rent Will the Voucher Pay?

The amount of rental assistance you receive will depend on your household size, your income and the rent your landlord charges. The amount DCA agrees to pay toward your rent does not affect the amount of rent a landlord may charge. DCA has established a payment standard for each county. A payment standard is the maximum amount that DCA will pay in rental assistance, based on location and unit size. A family which receives a rental voucher can select a unit which

rents below or above the payment standard. If the family rents a unit with rent greater than the payment standard, the rental family will end up paying more than 30% of its monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities. However, the family would pay only 30% of its monthly adjusted gross income, if it rented a unit that charged a rent less than or equal to the payment standard. Of course, the family's rent share also changes when its income or family circumstances change.

Who Is Eligible?

Georgia residents whose income does not exceed 50 percent of the area median income for their family size are eligible to participate. Eligibility is determined by DCA based on the total annual gross income and family size and is limited to U.S. citizens and specified categories of noncitizens who have eligible immigration status. DCA posts the income guidelines at its web site at:

http://www.dca.state.ga.us/housing/rental.html

The regional DCA office serving your community can provide you with the income limits for your area and family size.

How Do I Apply for the Program?

To apply for rental assistance in the Section 8 program, you should contact the Regional Office for the county where you wish to apply. If a waiting list is open for a county, the individual will then receive information about the program guidelines and application procedures. An application will be mailed to the individual or family. The application must be returned to the DCA office. The applicant will be placed on the waiting list for available housing. Once your application is returned and placed on the waiting list, DCA reviews the client's application, family composition and income, and determines if the applicant is eligible for assistance. During this process DCA will collect information on your family income, assets, and family composition. DCA will verify this information with other local agencies, your employer and bank, and will use the information to determine eligibility and the amount of your rental assistance payment. If you are eligible, when assistance becomes available DCA will use the waiting list to determine who to contact. If you apply and are told you are not eligible, you may request an informal review of that decision.

How Does the Waiting List Operate?

Since the demand for housing assistance often exceeds the limited resources available, long waiting periods are common. In fact, DCA may close its waiting list when it has more families on the list than can be assisted in the near future. DCA maintains waiting lists for each county. When selecting a family from its waiting list, DCA will give preferences to those with the following characteristics: (1) when the household lives, works or has been hired to work in the county in which they applied or (2) 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 by DCA of the decision denying you a preference.

What Types of Housing Will the Voucher Pay For?

The Housing Choice voucher program places the choice of housing in the hands of the individual family. A family that is issued a rental voucher is responsible for finding and selecting a suitable rental unit of the family's choice. Each participant is encouraged to consider all types of housing to secure the best rental housing for its needs. Participants can use vouchers to lease privately owned housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments. The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects. The only requirement is that the rental unit must meet an acceptable level of health and safety before DCA can approve payments to landlord. When the voucher holder finds a unit and the landlord agrees to participate in the Section 8 Program, DCA must inspect the dwelling and review the lease for approval.

Where Can I Use My Voucher?

When you receive a voucher from DCA you can look for housing anywhere in DCA's jurisdiction. If you lived within DCA's jurisdiction when you applied for assistance, 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 for assistance, you must use your voucher the first time within DCA's jurisdiction. However, participants who have lived within DCA's jurisdiction for twelve months can move outside DCA's jurisdiction when their lease ends. DCA limits the number of moves to one a year, unless there are emergency circumstances that make the move necessary. The family must notify DCA ahead of time, terminate its existing lease according to the appropriate lease provisions, and find acceptable alternate housing

What Happens Once I Find a Unit and it Passes Inspection?

Once DCA 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 sign a housing assistance contract which runs for the same term as the lease. This means that everyone -- tenant, landlord and DCA-- has obligations and responsibilities within the voucher program.

Tenant's Role: When a family selects a housing unit, and DCA approves the unit and lease, the family signs a lease with the landlord for at least one year. The tenant may be required to pay a security deposit to the landlord. After the first year the landlord may offer the family a new lease or may tell the family to relocate. The family is expected to comply with the lease and the program requirements, pay its share of rent on time, maintain the unit in good condition and notify DCA of any changes in income or family composition.

Landlord's Role: The role of the landlord in the voucher program is to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing to a tenant at a reasonable rent. The dwelling unit must pass the program's housing standards and be maintained up to those standards as long as the owner receives housing assistance payments. In addition, the landlord is expected to provide the services agreed to as part of the lease signed with the tenant and the contract signed with DCA.

DCA's Role: DCA administers the voucher program locally. DCA provides the family with the rental assistance that enabled the family to seek out suitable housing and DCA enters into a contract with the landlord to provide rental assistance payments on behalf of the family. If the landlord fails to meet his/her obligations under the lease, DCA has the right to terminate assistance payments to the landlord.

HUD's Role: To cover the cost of the program, HUD provides funds to allow DCA to make housing assistance payments on behalf of the families. HUD also pays DCA a fee for the costs of administering the program.

Where Are the Rental Assistance Offices Located?

The five regional Rental Assistance Offices 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.

Albany Regional Office

323 Pine Avenue, Suite 202

Albany, GA 31701-2587

229-430-4384

Toll Free: 1 (888) 340-7069

Eastman Regional Office

100 Pearl Bates Lane

Eastman, GA 31023-4069

478-374-6962

Toll Free: 1 (888) 340-6112

Athens Regional Office

485 Newton Bridge Road, Suite 2

Athens, GA 30607-1169

706-369-5636

Toll Free: 1 (888) 318-0354

Waycross Regional Office

960-A City Boulevard

Waycross, GA 31501-4239

912-285-6280

Toll Free: 1 (888) 879-2549

Carrollton Regional Office

185 Parkwood Circle

Carrollton, GA 30117-0609

770-836-6660

Toll Free: 1 (888) 340-4481

Susan Reif
Georgia Legal Services Program
Last Revised: December 2003

Last Review and Update: Jun 17, 2002