Everything You Need to Know About Section 8 Housing in Oakland

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Section 8 housing in Oakland enables people with low incomes (less than 50% of Oakland’s median income) to apply for Section 8 housing vouchers. With these, the federal government is authorized to pay a portion of your rent.
Affordable housing is a challenge for everyone, but especially for people who live in this very expensive area of California. To help people with low incomes access housing, the federal Section 8 program steps in to cover some costs. If you’re eligible, you’ll only pay up to 40$ of your monthly income towards rent.
But Section 8 housing in Oakland is complicated. There are waitlists, application forms, timelines, and requirements for landlords. It can feel impossible to find a place to live!
The car and renters insurance super app Jerry has created this guide to Section 8 housing in Oakland, California. Learn the basics of the program, understand the income requirements, and learn how to navigate the process of applying for vouchers, hunting for apartments, and maintaining your tenancy. 
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What is Section 8 housing?

Section 8 is an affordable housing program run by the federal government and operated in local communities across the country. It’s named after Section 8 of the 1974 Housing and Community Development Act.
This housing program helps vulnerable people—people with low income, disabled people, and older adults—access decent housing thanks to financial assistance from the government. The first step for eligible people is to apply for a housing voucher.
Section 8 is a federal affordable housing program. It helps families with very low income, the elderly, and disabled people afford housing by getting a portion of their rent paid by the government. The name comes from Section 8 of the 1974 Housing and Community Development Act, which established the housing voucher program. 
Let’s learn the basics of how Section 8 works: 
  • Apply to your local housing authority to see if you qualify for rental assistance. You will apply for either housing choice vouchers or project-based vouchers.
  • Housing choice vouchers allow the tenant to live in a unit that fits the requirements on the voucher.
  • Project-based vouchers are specific to certain properties, where the landlord has predetermined a portion of units as low-income units.
  • The voucher you receive will state a number of bedrooms, which is determined by the size and composition of your family.
  • Once you have this voucher, you cannot be compelled to pay more than 40% of your income toward rent. The government will step in to pay the rest.  

Section 8 obligations

The Section 8 program involves many different people. Each person plays a different role in ensuring that the system functions smoothly. Here’s what each party is responsible for: 
TenantLandlordHousing authority
Provide accurate and complete documentationScreen tenantsDetermine applicants’ eligibility and issue vouchers
Find suitable housing and complete all required paperwork before the voucher expiresComply with fair housing lawsApprove units, rental amounts, and leases
Pay rent promptly and attend all required appointmentsComplete all necessary repairs and maintenanceInspect subsidized units annually
Notify the housing authority of any changes in income or family compositionProvide housing authority with documentation of any notices to tenants, including eviction noticesEnsure that both tenants and landlords comply with program rules
Key Takeaway The government will pay a significant portion of rent for Section 8 housing— but prepare to face a lot of red tape and lengthy wait times to qualify.

What are the requirements for Section 8 housing in Oakland?

In Oakland, Section 8 housing is managed by the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA). To qualify for Section 8 vouchers in Oakland, every adult in the family must meet the federal requirements set out by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 
The Section 8 housing laws in Oakland dictate that the main tenant must be 18 years of age or older with eligible immigration status or a US citizen. Your rental and criminal histories will be screened. If you have been convicted for a drug-related eviction or if you are a convicted sex offender, your application will be rejected. 
To qualify, your income cannot exceed 50% of the median income in your area. HUD includes the following in income calculations: 
  • Wages
  • Business income
  • Interest
  • Welfare assistance
  • Social security benefits
  • Alimony and child support
If you have any other income, it may be included in your total income calculation. Check out this list to accurately determine your income. 
As of 2021, the median household income in Oakland is $80,143. However, the exact income limits for your situation will depend on how big your family is. The table below breaks down qualifying income based on family size in Oakland: 
Family size12345678
Very low income (50%)$47,950$54,800$61,650$68,500$74,000$79,500$84,950$90,450
Extremely low income (30%)$28,800$32,900$37,000$41,100$44,400$47,700$51,000$54,300
Low income (80%)$76,750$87,700$98,650$109,600$118,400$127,150$135,950$144,700
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The OHA will look beyond just your family size and income. Elderly, disabled, and young family members may help prioritize your application over others. This is especially true if you are currently unhoused

How to apply for Section 8 housing in Oakland

As of March 17, 2022, the waitlist is closed. 
To apply for Section 8 housing in Oakland, you can start by filling out a pre-application using the OHA’s online system
OHA screens pre-applications to find out whether applicants are eligible for any of OHA’s housing programs. During this process, a criminal background check may be pulled on all adult members of the family who will be included on the lease.
Eligible applicants will be placed on a waiting list via a lottery system. It’s common to stay on the waiting list for many months. You will be informed by email about your status. They do not share information about status over the phone. You can also inquire by mail by sending a written request to Oakland Housing Authority, Eligibility Department, 1540 Webster Street, Oakland, CA, 94612. 
If housing becomes available, applicants will then be invited to complete a formal application process. You will need to submit extensive documentation, like income verification, immigration status verification, and information about your family’s composition.
Meanwhile, please notify OHA immediately if anything changes with regard to your family composition, income, or mailing address.

How to find Section 8 housing in Oakland

Once you’ve received your voucher, you can start looking for affordable housing. Try AffordableHousing.com or check out this map created by HUD. 
Document everything in your housing search. Keep track of applications submitted, meetings with landlords and superintendents, and any other housing-related activities. If you find any apartment listings that say “no section 8,” report them to the housing authority. 
When you received your Section 8 voucher, you should also have received a “request for tenancy approval” form. Bring this form to your potential landlord.
To finalize the lease, you will need to submit several completed forms with participation from your new landlord: Request for Tenancy Approval, Inspection Checklist, and the Lead Paint Disclosure
Then, OHA will perform an inspection to verify the suitability of the rental unit. If the unit passes inspection, you’re ready to sign the lease and move in.

How to save money on car and renters insurance in Oakland

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How does it work? Unlike Section 8, Jerry requires no paperwork, proof of income, or lengthy meetings with counselors. All you need to do is download the free app. Get customized quotes from 50+ top insurance companies. It only takes a few seconds to find out whether you’re overpaying—and a few more seconds to switch to a cheaper policy. 
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Under Section 8, tenants cannot be required to pay more than 40% of their income in rent. So, Section 8 will cover the rest—up to 60% of your monthly income. The exact dollar amount depends on rental prices in your area, your family size, and your income.
As a landlord, you are not compelled to accept a Section 8 voucher holder—however, you may not reject them solely because of their income or Section 8 status. California’s newest laws prohibit this type of discrimination.

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