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

To qualify for Section 8 housing, you need to make less than 50% of the median income.
Written by Nick Kunze
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Renters who make less than 50% of San Francisco’s median income are eligible for Section 8 housing, which uses government funds to subsidize rent costs for low-income families. 
The Section 8 program helps low-income families, the disabled, and the elderly get affordable housing.
San Francisco
is one of the most expensive cities in the world, making Section 8 a crucial public service for low-income families residing in the city.
Section 8 housing can be a complex beast, with many different forms and rules you’ll need to understand. That’s why
and renters insurance super app
created this guide—to help you understand Section 8 and get the financial help you need.

What is Section 8 housing?

Section 8 is a federally funded affordable housing program. Created as part of the 1974 Housing and Community Development Act, Section 8 helps low-income and disadvantaged families pay their rent.
Here’s a breakdown of how Section 8 works:
  • Families apply for Section 8 through their local housing authority.
  • If approved, tenants receive vouchers that qualify them for rental insurance. 
  • There are two types of vouchers: housing choice vouchers or project-based vouchers. Housing choice vouchers will subsidize the rent of any apartment that fits into the voucher’s specific specifications. Project-based vouchers will subsidize rent at specifically designated rental units throughout the city.
  • The size and composition of your family will dictate the number of bedrooms you are allocated.
  • Approved tenants won’t pay over 40% of their income on rent. The rest of the cost will be covered by Section 8 funding. In San Francisco, the minimum rent payment for Section 8 is $25.

Section 8 obligations

Section 8 has specific responsibilities for tenants, landlords, and local housing authorities involved in the program.
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 Section 8 tenants won’t pay over 40% of their income on their monthly rent.

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

Section 8 in San Francisco is run by the Housing Authority of the City and County of San Francisco (SFHA). To qualify for Section 8 in SF (or anywhere in the country), you’ll need to meet the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s requirements. 
According to the HUD, you must be over 18 years old and either a US citizen or documented immigrant to apply. Plus, you must qualify as a family to receive Section 8. However, the HUD does not limit families to married couples or those with children—a single tenant can qualify as a family and receive Section 8 housing. 
Only families that make less than 50% of San Francisco’s median income can qualify for Section 8. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines income as:
  • Wages
  • Business income
  • Interest
  • Welfare assistance
  • Social security benefits
  • Alimony and child support
The current median household income in San Francisco is $119,136. Since Section 8 housing is limited, just qualifying does not guarantee you’ll receive a housing voucher. The majority of those accepted into the program will make less than 30% of the median income.
This table explains the qualifying income for different family sizes in San Francisco:
Family size
Extremely low income
Very low income
Low income
Be aware that income is not the only factor. Families with children, disabled family members, or elderly family members will be prioritized. Unhoused applicants may also be prioritized.

How to apply for Section 8 housing in San Francisco

To apply for the Section 8 program in San Francisco, you’ll want to head to the
website. You can apply online or head to a local office and get help from an agent.
You’ll need to fill out a form and provide ample paperwork that shows your family’s income. Once you’ve applied, you’ll likely get a confirmation letter in two-or-so weeks telling you if you’ve been accepted or denied. If you’re accepted, you’ll be placed on a waitlist.
Be warned: the waitlist can be years-long and sometimes closes completely. As of April 2022, the San Francisco Housing Authority (SFHA) Section 8 Project-Based Voucher waiting list is closed.
Once you reach the top of the waitlist, there’ll be an eligibility briefing before you receive your voucher.
For the HVC (Housing Choice Voucher), follow
these steps
to apply. You can work directly with an eligible landlord to find a unit that can be subsidized.

How to find Section 8 housing in San Francisco

It’s not easy for anyone to find housing in San Francisco, let alone those searching for Section 8 housing. Don’t panic, though! If you need assistance in your search, head to
for help.
Make sure you document the entirety of your housing search. This includes meeting with landlords, any submitted paperwork, a log of houses you visited, and what work you did to find housing. Having paperwork can get you an extension on your voucher if you’re struggling to find housing.
Once you find an apartment, send a copy of your lease agreement to SFHA along with the “request for tenancy approval” documents that came with your Section 8 voucher.
SFHA will inspect your new apartment before you move in to ensure it meets housing standards. Expect yearly inspections and certifications to confirm both you and your landlord are staying within program requirements. 

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Section 8 renters won’t pay over 40% of their monthly income on rent.
You’ll want to apply online or at a local housing office to get your Section 8 application started. You’ll need paperwork on your family and income.
Head to the
website for all the information you’ll need.
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