Everything You Need to Know About Section 8 Housing in San Diego

Section 8 San Diego provides rental assistance to low-income families meeting certain requirements, but the waitlist is currently 10 years long.
Written by Jessie Devine
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Section 8 in San Diego,
, provides rental assistance to more than 16,000 low-income households. If you make less than 80% of San Diego’s median income, you can get on a waiting list to receive assistance when it becomes available.
Section 8 housing assistance is a voucher program that allows eligible low-income households to contribute 40% or less of their annual income to rent—even when rental rates are much higher. It does this by covering the rest of the bill for tenants with Section 8 vouchers.
The Section 8 application process is long and complex, and it’s easy to get confused. Fortunately,
car and home insurance
is here to help clarify. We’ll go over Section 8 in San Diego, the requirements, the application process, and how to find a Section 8 rental.
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What is Section 8 housing?

The Section 8 housing program was created in the 1970s to assist low-income households struggling to pay rent. It especially focuses on
senior citizens
, disabled people, and families with children and strives to provide safe, sanitary, and decent housing to people who couldn’t otherwise afford it.
Also called the housing choice voucher program, Section 8 is administered by local public housing agencies. They provide vouchers to approved tenants that allow the tenant to pay 40% (or less) of their income toward rent while the government covers the remaining bill.
Due to high need and a limited number of vouchers, waitlists for Section 8 can be very long. In San Diego, the current wait time for a Section 8 voucher after approval is about 10 years.
Here are some basics about San Diego Section 8: 
  • The first step is to find out if you’re eligible. We’ll cover that in a bit.
  • In San Diego proper, your local housing authority is
    . Visit their website to learn more about the waitlist and the application process.
  • SDHC provides assistance through housing choice vouchers, which allow you to choose any apartment that meets the voucher’s requirements
  • Your family size will determine how many bedrooms your Section 8 apartment can have.
  • People using a housing choice voucher can’t be required to pay more than 40% of their income in rent. SDHC uses its
    Path to Success method
    to determine how much you must pay.
  • If the apartment’s rent costs more than this percentage, the government pays the rest directly to the landlord. 

Section 8 obligations

If you’re looking into Section 8 in San Diego, you probably already know that there’s a lot of red tape. This is true for landlords and local housing authorities as well as tenants. Take a look at the table below for an idea about each party’s obligations.
Housing authority
Provide accurate and complete documentation
Screen tenants
Determine applicants’ eligibility and issue vouchers
Find suitable housing and complete 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 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 the tenant, including eviction notices
Ensure that both tenants and landlords comply with program rules
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Key Takeaway If you qualify for Section 8 housing, your local housing authority will give you a voucher that covers a big portion of your rent—but expect a long wait time, especially in San Diego.

What are the requirements for Section 8 housing in San Diego?

Section 8 housing in San Diego is managed by the
San Diego Housing Commission
(not to be confused with
Housing Authority of the County of San Diego
, which covers Section 8 outside of major cities in San Diego County).
If you’re looking for Section 8 in San Diego, there are some requirements you have to meet.
You must be either a US citizen or documented immigrant who is 18 or older (if you have kids, that’s okay and may help prioritize your case). 
If you’ve ever been evicted, especially for drug use or methamphetamine manufacture, your application may be rejected—and if you’re a convicted sex offender, you’ll be denied. 
To qualify, your income can’t exceed 80% of the median income in your area. The following sources count as income: 
  • Wages
  • Business income
  • Interest and dividends
  • Unemployment
  • Welfare assistance
  • Social security benefits
  • Alimony and child support
For more info on how HUD (the US Department of Housing and Urban Development) makes their income calculations,
look at this list
The current median income in San Diego is $95,100. The specific income limits for your household will depend on your family’s size, which you can view in the table below. Limits have been adjusted based on HUD’s formula for a high housing cost area.
Family size
Extremely low income: 30% income
Very low income: 50% income
Low income: 80% income
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The waitlist for a Section 8 voucher in San Diego is currently 10 years, but other factors can encourage SDHC to prioritize your application. If you have children, disabled, or elderly family members, you could receive earlier consideration. You could also be pushed up the waitlist if you’re currently unhoused

How to apply for Section 8 housing in San Diego

After you’ve determined that you’re eligible, you should fill out the Section 8 application for San Diego using the
SDHC portal
. You’ll need an internet connection and proof of your income. Try your local library for help. 
If you have a disability and need accommodation, you can also call SDHC’s Wait List Call Center at 619-578-7640.
Once you complete the application, SDHC will review it and let you know if you’ve qualified. If so, they’ll place you on the waiting list. Section 8 in San Diego serves households through attrition, meaning that a new household can only receive a voucher when someone else has left the program. For this reason, waitlists can be extremely long. 
To check your waiting list status, log in to the
SDHC portal
When a spot opens up for you in the program, it’ll likely be long after you applied, so SDHC will contact you to verify that you’re still eligible. Then you’ll receive your voucher and you can start looking for Section 8 rentals in San Diego.

How to find Section 8 housing in San Diego

There are several ways to find Section 8 housing in San Diego.
The housing choice voucher program allows recipients of Section 8 to live anywhere in San Diego, but SDHC has a program called the Choice Communities Initiative that provides families with more flexibility to live in neighborhoods that offer more opportunities for transportation, schools, and employment by updating their payment standards. For more info, visit the
Choice Communities Initiative website
SDHC also provides a
list of affordable housing resources
and several interactive maps if you visit their
Help With Rent
page and scroll down. 
Finally, you can visit the
Affordable Housing
website, formerly known as GoSection8, and search by zip code in the area where you want to live.
Key Takeaway Once you receive your voucher, you can rent from any landlord in San Diego. SDHC provides resources on their website if you need help.

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Under Section 8 federal law, you can’t be required to pay more than 40% of your income in rent, and the Section 8 government authority will pay the rest.
The payment standard for a 2 bedroom under Section 8 in San Diego varies based on income and area. You can see an updated
list of payment standards
on the SDHC website.
In California, is illegal discrimination to deny a tenant just because they’re using a Section 8 voucher. Landlords are required to accept Section 8 vouchers as income and evaluate prospective tenants as they would any other.
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