Everything You Need to Know About Section 8 Housing in Chicago

Section 8 qualifying families and individuals in Chicago may only have to pay up to 40% of their monthly income in rent.
Written by Abbey Orzech
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
Section 8 housing vouchers authorize the federal government to pay a portion of rent for
Chicago
families and individuals whose income does not exceed 80% of the median income in the area. 
The Section 8 Housing Voucher Program in Chicago offers low-income families and individuals access to safe and affordable housing through the private market. This can include apartments, duplexes, townhouses, condominiums, and single-family homes. Anyone using a housing voucher will pay, at most, 40% of their monthly income on rent.
While this program can incredibly beneficial to those who get approved, applying can be a difficult process with long wait times. 
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What is Section 8 housing?

The Section 8 housing program is a rental assistance program for low-income families and individuals that enables them to find decent housing at an affordable rate. The Federal Government enacted Section 8 of the Housing and Community Development Act in 1974 and allows the government to pay a portion of your rent
Here’s how Section 8 works: 
  • Eligible tenants can apply through their local Housing Authority 
  • The Housing Authority takes factors like your family size and composition into account to determine how much your voucher will cover and if you have any priority status
  • An approved applicant will be given a voucher to put towards their rent in a home of their choosing 
  • The Housing Authority schedules an inspection and determines a fair rent price
  • Once the inspection and lease are approved, the Section 8 housing tenant moves in and begins to pay rent and utilities with a portion being covered by the government. Tenants will pay 30%-40% of their monthly income in rent and utilities. 

Section 8 obligations

The Section 8 housing program identifies obligations for tenants, landlords, and local housing authorities. Here’s what each party is responsible for:
Tenant
Landlord
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 Tenants of Section 8 housing will have a portion of their rent paid by the government and can choose a housing unit from the private market. 

What are the requirements for Section 8 housing in Chicago?

Section 8 housing in Chicago is managed by the
Chicago Housing Authority (CHA)
. There are requirements laid out by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that you have to meet to be considered for Section 8 in Chicago. 
To qualify for a voucher, the head or co-head of the household must be at least 18 years of age, be a U.S. citizen or hold eligible immigrant status, and make no more than 80% of the area’s median income. You will also need to be able to pass a background check on criminal activity and previous behavior in assisted housing programs. 
To qualify for Section 8 in Chicago, your gross annual income must be at or below 80% of the median income in the area. The HUD includes the following in income calculations: 
  • Wages
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Interest
  • Welfare assistance
  • Social security benefits
  • Alimony and child support
This list
provided by the HUD will give you a complete overview of what they consider income.  The median household income in Chicago in 2021 was $62,097, but to figure out your exact income limit, your family size and composition is taken into account. The table below shows the qualifying income limit based on family size in Chicago.
Family size
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
Low income (80%)
$52,200
$59,650
$67,100
$74,550
$80,550
$86,500
$92,450
$98,450
The CHA may consider you for priority status and move you up the waitlist if you are currently experiencing homelessness or are displaced due to domestic violence or natural disasters. 

How to apply for Section 8 housing in Chicago

To apply for Section 8 housing in Chicago, you’ll need to fill out the application through Chicago Housing Authority’s
online portal
. It is important to note that the CHA’s Section 8 Housing Voucher waitlist is currently closed due to high volume. Updates on waitlist reopening will come through various media outlets in Chicago. 
When applications are being accepted again, you will need to provide a valid email, mailing address, estimated family annual income, Social Security or Alien Registration numbers for each member of your household, and dates of birth for each member of your household. 
If any income or household changes happen while you are on the waitlist, you need to report them in person at the CHA Regional Office. 
After a housing voucher opens up, the next eligible family or individual will be asked to schedule a preliminary interview to get the rest of the process going.

How to find Section 8 housing in Chicago

Once you have your voucher, you have 60 days to find a suitable housing unit for your needs. This can be extended in certain circumstances, but make sure to reach out to the CHA before your voucher expires to have a better chance of extending it. You can find Section 8 housing through
affordablehousing.com
, but the specific unit you select is up to you. 
After you decide on a home, you will have to give your prospective landlord a Request for Tenancy Approval form for them to complete. Give the completed form to your leasing officer as soon as it's filled out so the CHA can schedule an inspection of the unit.  
If the unit passes inspection, the CHA will come up with a rent price to offer the landlord. If the landlord approves, you may sign the lease and move in with the government paying a portion of your rent and utilities. If not, or the inspection fails, you will need to begin looking for a new home right away
Key Takeaway Once you receive your Section 8 housing voucher, you have 60 days to find a housing unit that works for your needs. 
MORE: 10 ways to get cheap car insurance that’s actually good

How to save money on car and renters insurance in Chicago 

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FAQs

Section 8 housing vouchers ensure that tenants will not pay more than 40% of their monthly income. The exact amount that Section 8 will pay depends on your family size and composition.
A 2-bedroom Section 8 voucher in Chicago will typically cost around $1,300.
It is illegal in the state of Illinois to discriminate against potential tenants with Section 8 vouchers, but you don’t have to accept the tenants if they don’t meet other qualifications.
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