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Section 8 Facts/Questions and Answers 

  1. What is the difference between Housing Choice Voucher Program and the Public Housing Program?
  2. When the Section 8 (Housing Choice Voucher) or Public Housing Programs are open how do I apply?
  3. I used to live in housing, can I move back into the housing program?
  4. What are Housing Choice Vouchers?
  5. Am I eligible?
  6. How do I apply?
  7. Local preferences and waiting list - what are they and how do they affect me?
  8. Housing vouchers - how do they function?
  9. What is the rent subsidy?
  10. What will I be expected to pay for rent?
  11. Does OHA pay my rental assistance to me or my landlord?
  12. What happens if my income or family composition changes after I begin receiving rental assistance?
  13. How often is my income reviewed?
  14. What happens if my unit needs repairs?
  15. How long can I remain in the rental assistance (Section 8) program?
  16. What if I want to move at the end of my lease?
  17. What if my owner wants me to move?
  18. Can I move and continue to receive housing choice voucher assistance?
  19. What are the Roles of the tenant, the landlord, the housing agency and HUD?
  20. What other housing options are available?
  21. What regulations cover this program?

  1. What is the difference between Housing Choice Voucher Program and the Public Housing Program?
    The Conventional Public Housing Program provides rental assistance to low and moderate-income families and individuals. The Housing Authority owns, manages and maintains all rental units offered under this program, which are located in neighborhoods throughout the City of Omaha. The Housing Choice Voucher program enables eligible persons to rent privately owned, existing, safe and sanitary housing by making housing assistance payments to private landlords.
  2. When the Section 8 (Housing Choice Voucher) or Public Housing Programs are open how do I apply?
    When the programs are open, the public is notified through the media (typically the Omaha World Herald and other local news publications). The public notice provides information about how and where to apply for the housing programs and includes contact information.
  3. I used to live in housing, can I move back into the housing program?
    When the housing program is accepting applicants, you are welcome to apply again for housing assistance. Any previous balance owed must be paid prior to receiving a voucher. In addition, you are subject to all other eligibility requirements for the housing assistance program.
  4. What are Housing Choice Vouchers?
    The housing choice voucher program is the federal government's major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments.

    The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects. Housing choice vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies (PHAs). The Omaha Housing Authority (OHA) receives federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher program.

    A family that is issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of the family's choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program. This unit may include the family's present residence. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by OHA

    A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by OHA on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.

  5. Am I eligible?
    Eligibility for a housing voucher is determined by OHA based on the total annual gross income and family size and is limited to US citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status. In general, the family's income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which the family chooses to live. By law, OHA must provide 75 percent of its vouchers to applicants whose incomes do not exceed 30 percent of the area median income. Median income levels are published by HUD and vary by location. OHA can provide you with the income limits for your area and family size.

    During the application process, OHA will collect information on family income, assets, and family composition. OHA will verify this information with other local agencies, your employer and bank, and will use the information to determine program eligibility and the amount of the housing assistance payment

    If OHA determines that your family is eligible, your name is placed on a waiting list. Once your name has reached the top of the  waiting list, OHA will contact you and issue to you a housing choice voucher. In addition, all household members who are 18 years of age or older must be able to pass an OHA criminal background check. 

  6. How do I apply?
    The OHA publishes an advertisement in a newspaper of general circulation, minority media and by other suitable means when the Section 8 waiting list is opened.
  7. Local preferences and waiting list - what are they and how do they affect me?
    Since the demand for housing assistance often exceeds the limited resources available to HUD and the local housing agencies, long waiting periods are common. OHA tries to keep the waiting list at a number where the wait is normally two to six months.
  8. Housing vouchers - how do they function?
    The housing choice voucher program places the choice of housing in the hands of the individual family. Families are encouraged to consider several housing choices to secure the best housing for their family needs. A housing voucher holder is advised of the unit size for which he/she is eligible based on family size and composition.

    The housing unit selected by the family must meet an acceptable level of health and safety before OHA can approve the unit. When the voucher holder finds a unit that it wishes to occupy and reaches an agreement with the landlord over the lease terms, OHA must inspect the dwelling and determine that the rent requested is reasonable.

    OHA determines a payment standard that is the amount generally needed to rent a moderately-priced dwelling unit in the local housing market. That payment standard is used to calculate the amount of housing assistance a family will receive. However the payment standard does not limit and does not affect the amount of rent a landlord may charge or the amount the family may pay. A family which receives a housing voucher can select a unit with a rent that is below or above the payment standard. The housing voucher family must pay 30% of its monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities, and if the unit rent is greater than the payment standard the family is required to pay the additional amount. By law, whenever a family moves to a new unit where the rent exceeds the payment standard, the family may not pay more than 40 percent of its adjusted monthly income for rent.

  9. What is the rent subsidy?
    OHA calculates the maximum amount of housing assistance allowable. The maximum housing assistance is generally the lesser of the payment standard minus 30% of the family's monthly adjusted income or the gross rent for the unit minus 30% of monthly adjusted income.
  10. What will I be expected to pay for rent?
    Rental assistance recipients are expected to pay 30% to 40% of their total household income for rent.
  11. Does OHA pay my rental assistance to me or my landlord?
    OHA will pay your rental assistance to the landlord each month. You must also pay your share of the rent each month. Failure to do so can lead to termination of your rental assistance.
  12. What happens if my income or family composition changes after I begin receiving rental assistance?
    When ever your income changes or you have a change in family composition (persons moving in or out of your household) you are required to report the change to the OHA Section 8 department. OHA will determine if and when a change in rent is required.
  13. How often is my income reviewed?
    Every household that receives housing assistance must undergo an annual recertification. We will schedule an appointment to update income and family composition. You must attend the scheduled appointments. Failure to do so may lead to termination of your rental assistance.
  14. What happens if my unit needs repairs?
    You should notify your landlord immediately if your unit is in need of a repair. If violations are found at the time of an initial or annual inspection conducted by OHA, a letter will be sent to your landlord with a copy to you. The violations must be corrected within 30 days and a re-inspection completed to verify that the items have been corrected.
  15. How long can I remain in the rental assistance (Section 8) program?
    Current program rules allow you to continue to receive housing assistance as long as you are income-eligible and as long as you fulfill your tenant obligations established by HUD for the program. You will lose your assistance when your income rises to the point that your portion of the rent matches or exceeds the full amount of the rent, or if you are terminated from the program for violating the rules.
  16. What if I want to move at the end of my lease?
    Before you can move to another unit and continue to receive your housing assistance, you must complete your tenant obligations under your current lease and contact a housing specialist before moving. This includes giving your landlord a proper 30-day notice to vacate, and sending a copy of the notice to the Section 8 Department.
  17. What if my owner wants me to move?
    If you are a rental assistance participant, your owner may request that you move at the end of your lease term. If you receive a written notice to move, call the Section 8 Department. It is very important for you to fulfill your lease obligations and pay your rent on time each month. If you violate any of your lease provisions, your landlord may serve a notice for lease violations. In this case you may no longer be eligible for the program. Contact the Section 8 Department as soon as you receive any written notice from your landlord.
  18. Can I move and continue to receive housing choice voucher assistance?
    A family's housing needs change over time with changes in family size, job locations, and for other reasons. The housing choice voucher program is designed to allow families to move without the loss of housing assistance. Moves are permissible as long as the family notifies OHA ahead of time, terminates its existing lease within the lease provisions,  has not violated the Statement of Family Obligations and finds acceptable alternate housing.

    Under the voucher program, voucher-holders may choose a unit anywhere in the United States. The HUD term for the ability to move outside OHA’s jurisdiction with rental assistance is “portability”. There are restrictions that may apply to portability so it is always best to check with your housing specialist.

  19. What are the Roles of the tenant, the landlord, the housing agency and HUD?
    Once OHA approves an eligible family's housing unit, the family and the landlord sign a lease and, at the same time, the landlord and OHA sign a housing assistance payments contract that runs for the same term as the lease. This means that everyone -- tenant, landlord and OHA -- has obligations and responsibilities under the voucher program.

    Tenant's Obligations: When a family selects a housing unit, and the OHA approves the unit and lease, the family signs a lease with the landlord for at least one year. The tenant may be required to pay a security deposit to the landlord. After the first year the landlord may initiate a new lease or allow the family to remain in the unit on a month-to-month lease. When the family is settled in a new home, the family is expected to comply with the lease and program requirements, pay its share of rent on time, maintain the unit in good condition and notify the OHA of any changes in income or family composition.

    Landlord Obligations: The role of the landlord in the voucher program is to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing to a tenant at a reasonable rent. The dwelling unit must pass the program's housing quality standards and be maintained up to those standards as long as the owner receives housing assistance payments. In addition, the landlord is expected to provide the services agreed to as part of the lease signed with the tenant and the contract signed with OHA.

    Housing Authority Obligations: OHA administers the voucher program locally. OHA provides a family with the housing assistance that enables the family to seek suitable housing and then OHA enters into a contract with the landlord to provide housing assistance payments on behalf of the family. If the landlord fails to meet the owner's obligations under the lease, OHA has the right to terminate assistance payments. The family's income and composition must be reviewed at least annually and the dwelling unit inspected at least annually to ensure that it meets minimum housing quality standards.

    HUDs Role: To cover the cost of the program, HUD provides funds to allow OHA to make housing assistance payments on behalf of the families. HUD also pays OHA a fee for the costs of administering the program. When additional funds become available to assist new families, HUD invites PHAs to submit applications for funds for additional housing vouchers. Applications are then reviewed and funds awarded to those selected on a competitive basis. HUD monitors OHA’s administration of the program to ensure program rules are properly followed.

  20. What other housing options are available?
    There may be a long wait for assistance under the housing voucher program. OHA also administers the public housing program. HUD also administers other subsidized programs and you may obtain a list of programs in your area from the Office of Housing at your local HUD office.
  21. What regulations cover this program?
    Regulations are found in 24 CFR Part 982.