HUD vs. Section 8: Which is Better?

Getting a decent place to live is everyone’s right—including yours. But what if you’re on a low income and can’t afford to rent or buy a home? You look through the rental ads, do the math, and realize there’s no way your income will stretch that much. You’ve still got yourself and the kids to feed. Maybe you’ve got to pay for medical costs, too. 

One solution to your housing problem could be a government subsidized housing program. These programs are designed for low-income families, people with disabilities, the elderly, or folks who don’t earn enough to get by. Depending on your income, if you get disability benefits, and family status, you could be eligible for housing assistance.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development—or HUD—has two main types of housing subsidy programs. They are:

  • The HUD Public Housing Program.
  • Section 8, also referred to as Housing Choice Vouchers.

Although both of these programs are similar, there are some differences. It’s knowing the difference between HUD and Section 8 that is the key to getting into decent, affordable housing. The article aims to explain what public housing is and how to qualify for it. We’ll also explore which is better for you—HUD or Section 8. 

HUD Public Housing Program—How it Works

The HUD website states what the main goal of public housing programs is. Subsidized housing should “provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.” 

These units can be anything from single-family houses to high-rise apartment blocks. As the name suggests, these accommodation units are publicly-owned. They’re run by local housing authorities (HAs). Some 1.2 million individuals are living in public housing today. 

The cost of rent living in public housing

The way that public housing works is that you have to pay a portion of your income on rent. Usually, you have to pay 30% of your income for rent. In some cases, your rent may be free or as little as $25 a month. So, the benefit is that you have more cash to pay for basic needs—food, medicine, transportation, and childcare. Another benefit of public housing is that it helps people avoid homelessness.

Section 8 Program—How it works

The difference between Section 8 and HUD is that eligible folks can look for private accommodation—not publicly-owned places. The scheme is also called the Housing Choice Voucher Program. This is because HUD provides low-income people and people on benefits with vouchers. 

If you qualify for Section 8, you receive a voucher that goes toward your rent. You can look for suitable accommodation in your area that includes duplexes, apartments, condos, townhouses, single-family houses, and even trailers. The rental properties have to meet specific housing quality standards. The PHA will also inspect the property before you move in

The cost of rent in Section 8 housing

If you receive Section 8 vouchers for your rent, you generally have to pay between 30% and 40% of your income in rent. The state housing authority makes up the rest. In some cases, the value of the voucher can cover all the rent—so, you may not have to pay anything at all with a Section 8 voucher.  

The benefits of Section 8 housing are that you have more money to buy basic necessities and you get to choose your accommodation.

Qualifying for Public Housing

Being eligible for public housing depends mostly on your income levels. But you’ll need to check with your local Public Housing Agency (PHS) about eligibility specifics. Income limits vary from state to state. 

In general, the lower income limit is 80% of the average income for your area, and 50% is the very low-income limit. Of course, the exact figure changes depending on the size of your family. 

Another thing that PHA officials take into account is any benefits you currently receive. So, if you’re elderly or have a disability, your chances of being accepted increase. 

Some factors that can make qualifying for public housing more difficult can include any of the following:

  • Having a criminal record 
  • Not having special needs 
  • Moving into an area where you’re not already residing

How to Qualify for Section 8

For most people looking for low-cost rent, Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher is better than HUD. Because of this fact, there tends to be a long waiting list to get Section 8 rental vouchers. 

The income limits to be eligible for Section 8 are the same as for HUD Public Housing. So, your family’s income can’t be more than 80% of the average salary for people in your area. Other factors, apart from income, that are taken into account include: 

  • Size of your family
  • If you have a disability or are elderly 
  • Your immigration status if you’re not a U.S. citizen
  • Other local factors 

How to Apply for HUD Public Housing or Section 8

To apply for either of these subsidized housing programs, you have to contact your local PHA office. Before applying, you’ll need to gather all the necessary documents to prove your eligibility. 

The most important documents you need are ones related to your finances—so, you’ll need tax returns, bank statements, and information about your employers. You’ll also need documents proving disability benefits or unemployment assistance if you receive either of these.

If approved for Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8), you can start checking out the ads for rental accommodation in your area. You should be able to afford to rent a reasonably-priced place in your area. 

Which is Better—HUD or Section 8?

Section 8 is better for most families because it gives them more freedom to choose their rental. You get to find your rental property, sign a lease with the landlord, and then move in. 

Before signing a lease, there are a few things to remember:

  • Cost of utilities — Before deciding on a place to rent, calculate the cost of living there. You are responsible for electricity, gas, and heating. In some cases, you may also qualify for energy assistance.
  • Security deposit — You still have to be able to afford the security deposit. So, check that out before signing the lease.

Depending on your circumstances, public housing may be a better option. It is generally cheaper to live there. So, if you’re on a very low-income or have disabilities, HUD Public Housing may be more affordable. 

HUD vs. Section 8: A Takeaway

Public subsidized housing can take away the threat of homelessness. If you qualify for HUD Public Housing or Section 8 (Home Choice Vouchers), you’ll get access to affordable housing. Paying less for rent gives you and your family more wiggle room in the budget.