The federal Section 8 program began in 1975 as a way to assist low-income families, elderly people, and people with disabilities to rent decent, safe, and affordable housing in the community. Through this program, individuals and families receive a “voucher” — also referred to as a “subsidy” — that can be used in housing of their choice that meets the Section 8 program requirements. These subsidies are long-term and considered permanent housing. The Section 8 program is one of the most successful federal housing programs. It is also one of the best ways to help people with disabilities afford and maintain rental housing of their choice. Currently, across the nation, over 1.5 million households receive housing assistance through the Section 8 program — including many households with family members with a disability. In 1975, when this housing assistance program was established, it was referred to as the “Section 8” program. In many communities, it is still referred to by this name. However, a federal housing law passed in 1998 gave the program a new name — the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP). Because it is more familiar, this guidebook will use the term “Section 8 program” to refer to the new HCVP.
The Section 8 program recognizes that very low-income people do not have enough money to afford decent, safe, and good quality housing. The program addresses this problem by providing a Section 8 subsidy to assist the household with monthly housing costs. This subsidy — which is based on the cost of moderately priced rental housing in the community — is provided by a Public Housing Agency (PHA) under a contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Section 8 household pays a portion of monthly housing costs that is based on the income of the household. The household’s portion is usually — but not always — equal to 30 percent of its monthly adjusted income.