Section 8 Senior Housing

Section 8 senior housing is a type of subsidized housing available to senior citizens. It provides residences for those who want to live independently—but who lack the financial resources to do so.

It seems like roughly half the population will be approaching retirement age by 2050, and there continues to be an increase in older adults living alone or with family. The Section 8 program can help lower-income seniors find affordable rental homes and apartments that fit their needs and budgets.

Although the Section 8 program began in 1968, it has undergone many changes since then. The Robert C. Weaver Fair Housing Act of 1988 mandated that states and localities provide more public housing and more federal assistance to low-income seniors, who may not be able to afford market-rate apartments or homes.

The Section 8 program is administered by each state with funding received from HUD through its Public Housing Agency. Through rules and regulations, HUD also determines how much each state can pay out to families participating in the Section 8 program.

In the 1990s, HUD directed states to implement the Section 8 program to provide affordable housing for low-income senior citizens. In 1996, Congress passed the National Affordable Housing Act of 1990, which authorized HUD to transfer $2 billion in funds earmarked for low-income housing and create a new type of assistance called Section 8 rental vouchers. The Department also created the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) which offers job training and placement services as a part of its certified 10(a) Business Development program. It is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor.

A 2007 HUD publication focuses on a Section 8 senior housing model for individual seniors to qualify for supportive services, help with health care, and help with transportation and financial considerations. According to a 2008 HUD review of the Section 8 Senior Housing program, landlord-tenant laws vary by state, so there’s no national standardization of landlord duties in rental agreements.

Each state can decide the payment rates and set its own guidelines and requirements on how to qualify for the Section 8 housing program, said a HUD spokesman. In addition, each state can have different rules regarding the tenant-landlord relationship. And if a tenant moves, he or she may have to reapply for the Section 8 program in their new state of residence. The specific qualifying factors may also vary by location due to many different variables such as market costs of rent and home prices, which are usually higher in cities than in rural areas.

Another problem some seniors face is the habitual discrimination they experience while searching for housing. Qualifying factors for Section 8 eligibility include age, disability, family composition, and family income.

Qualifying Factors: Many factors determine whether an individual qualifies for Section 8 Senior Housing assistance. Some of these are:

Family composition – Families must consist of at least one elderly person aged 62 or older, or a disabled person who needs assistance with everyday living tasks (ADL’s) such as bathing and administering medications.

Family income – Families must have a total annual household income of less than 80% of the prevailing fair market rent (FMR) in their area, including Social Security benefits, disability payments and other regular sources of income such as pensions and savings. This is called the “income limit.” For example, in a family of four living in New York City, that figure is $56,650 per year. The amount may vary by location.

U.S. Housing Act of 1937 – The U.S. Housing Act of 1937 sets the income limits and determines which families are eligible for HUD funding. At the time it was signed into law, the program was intended to assist families who also received Social Security benefits to help pay their rent. However, there has been a shift in focus as family size and income have increased, and now more than half of all households receiving Section 8 housing assistance are having their rental payments paid by the government because they make too much money to qualify.

Disability – Seniors with disabilities and their families who need housing need not have a combined income of less than 80 percent of the FMR, in many cases higher, to qualify. The same is true for persons receiving Social Security disability benefits.

Age – Qualifying seniors must be at least 62 years old, or they must be disabled. Seniors over the age of 55 can also be considered disabled if they have difficulty performing basic self-care tasks like bathing or moving around.

Areas of the U.S. – The Section 8 voucher is only offered to individuals who live in certain geographical areas that qualify for the program. These areas are defined by HUD and include urban areas (1,000,000 population or more) and rural areas (100,000 to 999,999 population).