After a long Section 8 application process and a potential Section 8 waiting list, perhaps you’ve learned your benefits have finally become available. It’s an exciting time and a relief for many families who can begin receiving Section 8 Housing aid. However, before you can begin to receive your benefits, you’ll need to find Section 8 houses for rent.
Not every rental property is compatible with Section 8 Housing. The landlord or rental property management company must be willing to accept housing vouchers.
Plus, the property or unit must meet Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines. HUD approved housing guidelines ensure a rental property is safe, sanitary, and affordable.
As a Section 8 beneficiary, you’re able to choose the type of housing that best accommodates your family, including the following:
- Single family homes
With this in mind, it may be beneficial to develop a list of your must-haves and things that might be nice to have, but that you could live without. This can help you narrow down your housing search.
For example, you’ll need a minimum amount of bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate your family size. Or, you may prefer to rent a property that has a yard or extra storage space.
It’s also important to keep in mind that you may need to make certain compromises to secure affordable, comfortable housing, especially if you’re looking in specific neighborhoods. Additionally, there are resources that can help you find Section 8 housing, including your local public housing authority (PHA) and HUD counseling services.
Finding a Home That Suits Your Needs
Government assistance programs like Section 8 Housing can provide qualifying households with many rental options, especially in areas where more landlords and property owners accept housing vouchers.
One of the first decisions you should make regarding your housing search is the type of property you’d like to live in. For example, an apartment or a single family home. Making this decision early on can help you determine where to search for rental properties.
Next, ask yourself questions like:
- How many bedrooms does my family need?
- How many bathrooms would we prefer to have?
- What neighborhoods are closest to work, school, or public transportation?
- What school district would I prefer to have my children attend?
These considerations can help you narrow down your search outside of additional features and amenities you may prefer to have.
Where you choose to live can play a significant role in your daily lives. For example, if you choose to live in a busier neighborhood or downtown area, you will likely experience:
- More traffic
- Better public transportation options
- More local businesses, stores, and restaurants
- Noisier neighborhoods
Alternatively, if you choose a more remote or smaller neighborhood, you’ll likely experience:
- Less traffic
- Limited public transportation
- Fewer stores, restaurants, and other local businesses
- Quieter neighborhoods
While this list is not all-encompassing, it should give you a better idea of some considerations to make early on in your search for Section 8 houses for rent.
Potential Housing Red Flags and Amenities to Consider
Once you know the property type, size, and location you and your family would prefer, you can start looking at the finer details. Many Section 8 housing rental properties include additional features and amenities for you to consider.
Amenities vary widely between the types of available rental properties. For example, apartments and townhomes sometimes have shared communal spaces, such as a clubhouse, laundry facility, fitness center, or pool. On the other hand, single family homes may have a driveway, garage, yard, or extra storage space.
Additionally, properties often have in-unit amenities, such as:
- In-unit washer and dryers
- Kitchen features and appliances
- Smart home technology
- Cable and internet services
- Wall unit vs. central air conditioning units and heaters
- Furnished options
- Carpets vs. hardwood floors
- Pet-friendly availability
It’s also important to consider responsibilities you’ll have as a tenant. For example, if you choose to live in a single family home, you may be responsible for basic maintenance tasks, including snow removal or mowing. You’ll also likely be responsible for any damages caused by you, your family, or your pets.
Alternatively, if you intend to use your Section 8 housing vouchers towards the purchase of a home, you’ll likely be responsible for any future repairs and maintenance tasks.
When you do begin touring rental properties, it’s also important to be on the lookout for any potential red flags that could become a problem later. Some common red flags include:
- Properties that are in poor condition, dirty, or damaged
- Lack of parking
- Difficulty contacting the landlord or property management company
- Landlords and agencies that don’t perform any sort of application process
- Rental fees that seem too good to be true
If you notice any red flags, be cautious, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to look elsewhere for affordable housing.
Getting Help From Housing Counseling Services
Programs like Section 8 Housing are designed to help low-income families secure affordable, safe, and sanitary housing. As such, it’s not uncommon for families to use their housing vouchers towards the purchase of a home.
Becoming a homeowner has a lot of benefits and added security. However, before you veer towards purchasing a home, it’s strongly encouraged that you use the HUD’s housing counseling services.
These services are free or very low cost, and they provide an abundance of resources and education on topics like:
- Homeowners and renters insurance
- Housing and home buyer assistance programs
- Mortgage loans and insurance premiums
- Raising credit scores
- Avoiding foreclosures
- Avoiding evictions
- How to negotiate with lenders
HUD counseling services aren’t just for homebuyers either. Anyone can benefit from the information they can provide. Plus, Section 8 Housing recipients may be able to find additional housing listings using housing counseling services.
It’s common for HUD counseling to have lists of HUD approved housing options in the area. If you’re having trouble finding adequate housing, you may also be able to contact your local PHA for more information about potential rental properties in your area.