Everything You Need to Know About Section 8 Housing in Des Moines

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Households with an income of 50% or less of Des Moines, Iowa’s median income can qualify for Section 8 housing vouchers, which authorizes the federal government to pay a percentage of the family’s rent. 
The Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8, was created in 1978 by the Housing and Community Development Act. This program was designed to provide housing to low and moderate-income families in the private market. 
Extensive documentation, specific requirements and long wait times can make navigating Iowa's Section 8 program seem like a real uphill battle.
Thankfully, car and renters insurance super-app Jerry is here to help put your mind at ease. Here’s what you need to know about the Section 8 program, list the necessary requirements in Des Moines, and break down the process of applying for vouchers, apartment hunting, and keeping your Section 8 tenancy.  
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What is Section 8 housing?

Section 8 is a federal program aimed to assist low-income families, as well as those who are elderly or have disabilities, obtain affordable housing. The name refers to Section 8 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, which created the housing voucher system. 
If you are new to the Section 8 program, here’s how it works:
  • There are two types of vouchers that eligible tenants can apply for: housing choice vouchers and project-based vouchers. Applications for these rental assistance programs are to be made to your local housing authority
  • Housing choice vouchers permit qualified tenants to choose housing based on their voucher’s specifications
  • Project-based vouchers allow landlords to designate units of certain properties as low-income residencies 
  • Family size and composition are how the housing authority determines the number of bedrooms on each household’s voucher
  • Tenants applying for dwellings with a housing choice voucher will not pay more than 40% of their income in rent—the government will cover the rest 

Section 8 obligations

Tenants, landlords, and local housing authorities all have unique responsibilities in the Section 8 program. Here’s a simple breakdown of each party’s designation:
TenantLandlordHousing authority
Complete documents accuratelyScreen tenantsIssue vouchers to eligible applicants
Find suitable housing and complete necessary documentation before voucher expiresObserve fair housing lawsApprove units, rental amounts, and leases
Pay rent timely and attend all required appointmentsMake all needed repairs and maintenanceInspect subsidized units every year
Contact 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
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Key Takeaway If you qualify for Section 8 housing, you will be required to pay a fraction of your income toward rent while the federal government covers the rest.

What are the requirements for Section 8 housing in Des Moines?

Section 8 housing in Des Moines is managed by the Des Moines Municipal Housing Agency. To qualify, you will have to meet several federal requirements set forth by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
To be deemed eligible, applicants must be at least 18 years old and one member of the household must be a U.S. citizen or non-citizen with eligible status. Applicants with any drug-related charges in the last two years will automatically not qualify.
Your income cannot exceed 50% of the median household income in your area.  HUD includes the following in income calculations: 
  • Wages
  • Social security benefits
  • Interest
  • Business income
  • Welfare assistance
  • Alimony and child support
As of 2020, the median household income in Des Moines was $54,843. However, the exact income limits vary given the size of your household. 
The table below gives a quick look at qualifying income based on family size in Des Moines:
Family size12345678
Very low income (50%)$32,000$36,550$41,100$45,650$49,350$53,000$56,650$60,300
Extremely low income (30%)$19,200$21,950$24,700$27,400$31,040$35,580$40,120$44,660
In addition to family composition, the Des Moines Municipal Housing Agency will also take past participation in federally subsidized programs into account when determining eligibility.

How to apply for Section 8 housing in Des Moines

Unfortunately, applications for Section 8 housing are not being accepted at the moment. You can check back at the Des Moines Municipal Housing Agency Section 8 Program page to see when submissions will open again.
When the application process does become available, be prepared to provide elaborate documentation to prove your income meets the HUD’s guidelines. Remember, documentation regarding arrest history, past participation in federally subsidized programs, and citizenship will also be required.
After you submit a successful application, you will be put on a waiting list. To check your status, call DMMHA at 515-323-8950. When you reach the top of the waiting list, you can pick out an available rental unit.

How to find Section 8 housing in Des Moines

After you’ve received your voucher, you’ll have a specific number of days to find housing. Confirm your timeline with the DMMHA.
There are several resources available to help you with your housing search. Check out Affordable Housing and Iowa Housing Search and input Des Moines to see what is available at the time of your hunt.
Keep track of all documents in your housing search, including meetings with landlords, applications submitted, and anything else you do. If you are having trouble finding housing, these records will prove that you are trying and can help you apply for an extension.

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Under Section 8, participants that meet the requirements pay approximately 30% to 40% of their monthly adjusted income for rent. The rest is covered by the federal government.
Currently, the waitlist for vouchers is closed and it is estimated that it could remain closed for up to one year. Check back with the Des Moines Municipal Housing Agency for updates.

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