Everything You Need to Know About Section 8 Housing in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara’s Section 8 housing voucher program helps very low-income, disabled, and elderly people find affordable housing.
Written by Jim Alexander
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
The Section 8 housing voucher program in Santa Barbara,
—now known as the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program—aims to help qualified low-income, disabled, and elderly residents pay for housing through federally allocated funds.
 The HCV program guarantees that you’ll pay no more than a certain percentage of your monthly income in rent. Program participants pay that portion of their income to the Housing Authority, and the Housing Authority pays your rent in full to your landlord.
 However, HCV programs are notoriously difficult to apply for and have seemingly complicated regulations and requirements—not to mention long wait times. 
Here to help you navigate Section 8 housing in Santa Barbara is
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. This guide includes a definition of the program, who is eligible, and how to apply. 
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What is Section 8 housing?

The Housing Choice Voucher program, more commonly known as Section 8, is a federal program that helps pay some or all rent for those who could not afford decent housing otherwise. 
The program was created by the 1974 Housing and Community Development Act. 
Here’s how it all works:
  • Funds are allocated for rent assistance to low-income individuals and families who would otherwise struggle to find safe and decent housing
  • There are two types of vouchers: a housing choice voucher, which allows participants to choose any rental unit that fits the budget, and a public housing voucher, which allows participants to choose from designated Section 8 units
  • Your income, the size of your family, and other special factors (like disability) determine whether you’re eligible for a voucher and how much money you’re entitled to
  • You are not guaranteed housing by the HCV program—and it’s not unusual to be on the waitlist for over a year
  • If you are accepted into the program, you pay a set percentage of your income to the Housing Authority, which pays the rent in full to your landlord

Section 8 obligations

Under the Section 8 program, tenants, landlords, and local housing authorities all carry certain obligations. Here’s what each party is responsible for:
Housing authority
Fill out all forms with truthful information
Screen tenants
Provide accurate information to prospective applicants
Find a rental unit in the time provided by law
Follow all applicable housing laws
Determine appropriate lease amounts for each recipient
Pay the portion of income as directed by the HCV agreement
Maintain the rental unit as they would for any tenant
Inspect each rental unit on an annual basis
Notify the Housing Authority within 15 days of any changes to income or family composition
Provide both tenant and Section 8 authority with any notices, including eviction notices
Ensure that both tenants and landlords comply with program rules
Key Takeaway The Housing Choice Voucher program allows low-income, elderly, or disabled people to pay a set percentage of their income to the Housing Authority, which covers the rest of the bill and ensures the housing is clean and safe.  

What are the requirements for Section 8 housing in Santa Barbara?

The HCV Santa Barbara program is run by the
Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara County (HACSB)
. This agency screens potential HCV applications, distributes vouchers, and administers the program as the law prescribes.
 To qualify for Section 8 housing, you must meet the following requirements as set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD):
  • Be at least 18 years of age 
  • Be a US Citizen or are a documented immigrant
  • Meet the income eligibility requirements
You do not need to live in Santa Barbara currently to apply or be chosen for the HCV program. 
You will not be eligible for the program if you have been convicted of a serious lease violation (such as distributing narcotics inside your apartment) or are a convicted sex offender
In general, to qualify for the program, you must have a family income less than 80% of the median income level in Santa Barbara. In 2020, the median was $81,618
Note that by law, the HACSB is required to give at least 75% of its vouchers to those who make less than 30% of the median income. In other words, if you are above the 30% threshold, you have a smaller chance of being accepted by the program.
The exact income limit required to be eligible for the program depends on your family size. To qualify for the Housing Choice Voucher, you must make less than 80% of the average median income (AMI) in the area. To qualify for the Public Housing Voucher, you must make less than 60% of the AMI.
Family size
Housing Choice Voucher (80% AMI)
Public Housing Voucher (60% AMI)
The HACSB supports other programs including the Supportive Housing Program, Senior Housing Program, and Workforce Housing Program. Each of these programs has its own unique income qualifications—the HACSB
income limits
page explains more. 
Once you are accepted for the program and find a rental unit, the HACSB pays your landlord directly. Your family pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the HACSB.

How to apply for Section 8 housing in Santa Barbara

The best way to apply for the various housing programs run by the HACSB is through their
online web portal
If you have infrequent or no access to the internet, you may also apply in-person at the following locations:
  • Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara: 808 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Open from 8am-5pm Monday-Thursday; 8am-4pm every other Friday
  • Any Santa Barbara
    public library
You will be required to fill out an extensive application to be admitted to the waitlist, so it’s important to make sure you have ample time before you begin the process. 
Your application will not be accepted if you forget something or provide inaccurate information, so be sure to read carefully and take your time.
Once it’s accepted, your application will be placed on a waitlist for housing vouchers.
The waitlist is generally a lottery system—once you are on the waitlist, you have the same chance as everyone else to receive a voucher unless you fall into one of the following priority categories:
  • Those who currently live or work in Santa Barbara County
  • Those with a disability
  • Veterans or eligible spouses
  • Those who currently live in a unit where the landlord will accept Section 8
As you remain on the waitlist, you must notify the HACSB of any change to your mailing address, household composition (e.g., you have a new child), or household income. 
If you are selected from the waitlist, HACSB will contact you and require you to finalize your application before you enter the voucher program.

How to find Section 8 housing in Santa Barbara

Once you are issued a housing voucher, you have a time limit to find a rental unit that is covered by the terms of the voucher. This time limit varies depending on your specific program.
Great resources to help you find an apartment include
this map
created by HUD. 
Make sure to keep a record of your search process—including all correspondence with potential landlords and applications you have submitted. If you do not find an apartment within the specified time, you may be eligible for an extension depending on your circumstances. 

How to save money on car and renters insurance in Santa Barbara

The Section 8 program can be instrumental in giving you access to safe housing and saving money on rent—but you’ll still need a good renters insurance policy to keep your belongings protected once you move into the apartment.
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The voucher amounts vary depending upon the number of bedrooms you qualify for. Check out HACSB’s
payment standards page
to see the current maximum payouts.
A two-bedroom Section 8 voucher in Santa Barbara will pay a maximum of $2,611 toward your rent.
No. The HACSB is required by law to give you access to housing with enough bedrooms for two people per room.
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