Everything You Need to Know About Section 8 Housing in Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, you'll need to earn less than 50% of the median income to qualify for Section 8 housing vouchers.
Written by Heather Bernhard
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Section 8 housing in Philadelphia,
, caters to low-income individuals and families, the elderly, and the disabled. Housing vouchers allow eligible people to access safe and quality housing with federal assistance. 
The Section 8 program, or the “Housing Choice Voucher” program, helps low-income individuals afford decent and affordable housing. People who are approved for the program and receive vouchers won’t have to pay more than a certain percentage of their monthly income in rent. 
Unfortunately, applying for a housing voucher can be a headache, and even if you’re approved, it can be challenging to find available housing. 
This comprehensive guide to Section 8 housing in
will tell you everything you need to know, including a rundown of Section 8, how to apply, where to find housing, and more—with a little help from
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What is Section 8 housing?

Section 8 is a federal affordable housing program that assists low-income, elderly, and disabled people in accessing decent and sanitary housing. 
Local public housing authorities issue vouchers, but the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) oversees the program.
Here's how Section 8 works: 
  • Individuals apply to the Public Housing Authority (PHA) for one of two types of vouchers.
  • Housing choice vouchers qualify recipients for any housing that meets the program's qualifications and are not limited to subsidized housing projects. 
  • Individuals that receive project-based vouchers must live in a specific unit that a landlord designates as Section 8 housing.
  • The specific number of bedrooms and type of housing is designated based on a family's size and composition.
  • The PHA pays the housing subsidy directly to the landlord on behalf of the family, who will pay no more than 40% of their adjusted monthly income in rent.

Section 8 obligations

The Section 8 program lays out responsibilities for three parties: tenants (who receive the vouchers), landlords (who furnish their living spaces), and the local housing authority (who regulates the process and monitors the other two).
Housing authority
Provide accurate and complete documentation
Screen tenants
Determine applicants’ eligibility and issue vouchers
Find suitable housing and complete all required paperwork before the voucher expires
Comply with fair housing laws
Approve units, rental amounts, and leases
Pay rent promptly and attend all required appointments
Complete all necessary repairs and maintenance
Inspect subsidized units annually
Notify the housing authority of any changes in income or family composition
Provide housing authority with documentation of any notices to tenants, including eviction notices
Ensure that both tenants and landlords comply with program rules
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Key Takeaway Under the Housing Choice Voucher program, voucher recipients are responsible for finding their own housing that meets the requirements of the program. 

What are the requirements for Section 8 housing in Philadelphia?

The Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) manages section 8 housing in the area. To receive Section 8 vouchers in
, you must demonstrate US citizenship (or legal noncitizenship) and present your Social Security number. 
PHA gives preference to applicants who qualify as families over single persons. A family includes, but is not limited to: 
  • Two or more people who are living together and related by blood, marriage, or act of law, who give evidence of a stable relationship in which resources are shared
  • An elderly or disabled person living with one or more aides
  • An elderly single person (55+ years of age) or disabled single person
  • A displaced single person, or remaining single member of a tenant family
In addition, the PHA cannot assist applicants in renting a unit if they own or have a financial interest in the dwelling or it's owned by an immediate family member (unless it provides reasonable accommodation for a person who is disabled). 
Lastly, you must be at least 18 years old and make an income that is lower than 50% of the median income of the area.
HUD includes the following in income calculations: 
  • Salary or wages
  • Compensation for unemployment
  • Benefits from the Veterans’ Administration or welfare programs
  • Social security payouts
  • Child support or alimony
This list is not exhaustive, however. You can read through
this list
to determine the full scope of income used in calculations. 
As of 2020, the median household income in Philadelphia is $49,127
However, the exact income limits differ based on your family size and composition and where you live. In addition, the PHA must reserve 75% of its vouchers to applicants who are extremely low income (30% or less of the median income)
The PHA also reserves 25% of vouchers for people who are homeless, meaning that you may not find a spot in the program if you are only very low income (less than 50% of the area’s median). 
Based on your family size, here are the income limits you’d have to meet to qualify for either income category:
Family size
Very low income
Extremely low income (30%)

How to apply for Section 8 housing in Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, you can only apply for Section 8 housing when there are spots on the wait list and the PHA is accepting applications. The waitlist is currently closed, and PHA will notify the public through TV, radio, print advertising, and their
when it is open. 
When the waitlist is open, individuals may fill out an application online. First-time users will need to create a personal identification number (PIN). 
Once your name reaches the top of the waitlist, you will be screened for eligibility. Upon successful completion of the evaluation, PHA will place your name in the waiting pool for housing vouchers. 
PHA does not provide applications with their number or position on the waitlist. Position is based on several factors, including the date and time of application and the type and size of housing required. 
During the application process, an applicant may check their status by calling 215-684-4300 (have your six-digit client ID ready). 

How to find Section 8 houses to rent in Philadelphia

Once you’re approved for the Housing Choice Voucher program, you should review your voucher—it will list your rental unit size and maximum monthly rent. It is your job to find a unit that meets the specifications, and the landlord must be willing to participate. 
You will work directly with the landlord to execute the lease (which must be at least 12 months long), then provide PHA with a copy of the lease. 
The PHA will enter into a separate agreement with the landlord to establish the use of a Housing Choice Voucher. 
To find a home, you can use
, an online rental property listing platform. Private market listings are available to potential HCV tenants who are seeking apartments, duplexes, single-family homes, or townhomes.
Pro Tip In order to continue receiving assistance, voucher recipients must pay their portion of the rent on time and uphold all terms of their lease. 

How to save money on car and renters insurance in Philadelphia

The average cost of living for a family of four in Philadelphia is about $3,800 a month, without rent. For a single person, it’s just over $1,000. 
For someone on a budget, those numbers can be challenging to meet. 
One way you can save is by
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In Philadelphia, tenants cannot be required to pay more than 40% of their income in rent. The rest is paid directly to the landlord by the government.
The exact dollar amount you’ll receive depends on the cost of housing in your area, but Housing Vouchers pay Philadelphia landlords an average of $800 a month in rent.
In Philadelphia, the average 2-bedroom Housing Choice Voucher is between $1,038 and $1,268.
Pennsylvania's landlords can legally refuse to accept housing vouchers and other public financial assistance as valid income, making it difficult for low-income families to find housing.
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