The Section 8 Rental Assistance program helps very low-income Coloradans (families, the elderly and the disabled) pay for rental housing in the private market. Section 8 is a subsidy program. The government pays most or all of the rent, but – depending on family status, income and other factors – tenants may pay a portion as well.
The funds for Section 8 come from federal tax dollars, but the program is managed through local city and county housing agencies, such as the Denver Housing Authority. Each housing authority gets a budget to pay for Section 8. Because more people in Colorado qualify for Section 8 than the program can cover, local housing offices have long waiting lists or conduct annual lotteries.
History of Section 8
Federal housing assistance programs started during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. The programs have evolved over time, and in 1974, were amended to allow low-income participants to choose their own housing in the private market. Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers now help about 2 million Americans.
How it works
Low-income individuals and families apply to their local housing authority for a Section 8 voucher. If they win one, they can search for housing in the private market. Colorado landlords don’t have to accept Section 8 payments or tenants. However, they must treat everyone equally and fairly, so a decision to accept or reject Section 8 must be made for all or no tenants.
Before a Section 8 tenant moves in, the housing authority will inspect the property to ensure it meets minimum standards of habitability. Once it passes the test, the housing authority pays its portion of the rent each month, and the tenant pays the rest.
What kinds of tenants qualify for Section 8?
To get Section 8, people must be U.S. citizens or otherwise legally in the country. They must also not have any recent violent crime or drug related criminal activity. And they must not earn a lot of money. For 2012, the program’s maximum income limits are as follows: a single person household – $27,800 in annual income; two-person household – $31,750; three persons – $35,700; four persons – $39,650; five people – $42,850; six people – $46,000, and up from there.
The median income of a HUD assisted family was $10,200 in 2010, according to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Some 54 percent of HUD-assisted families were elderly or disabled.
A related program for homeless veterans is VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) – a joint effort of HUD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VASH is a Section 8-like subsidy specifically for veterans.
For more information, see The Landlord & Tenant Guide to Colorado Leases and Evictions, 5th Edition, by Victor M. Grimm, Esq. and Denise E. Grimm.