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How to Find the Rental Assistance You Need

No matter your situation as a renter, there may be rental assistance programs out there to help. From Rhode Island to Hawaii, local resources are available that may help with paying monthly rent, utility bills, or other housing costs.

Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)

The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program, formerly known as Section 8, helps individuals and families afford stable, sustainable housing across the country. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides funding for the HCV Program, which public housing agencies (PHAs) run on a local level.

The public housing agencies are responsible for:

  • Distributing vouchers to eligible renters.
  • Managing local waiting lists for housing choice vouchers.
  • Inspecting rental units for health and safety.
  • Paying landlords a portion of the rent. The renter covers the remaining amount (typically about 30% of their monthly income).

The voucher covers a portion of rent, and the renter pays the remaining amount. HCVs are held by the tenant, rather than attached to a particular rental unit. If you’re looking for a rental property that accepts HCVs, your local PHA may have a list of units or properties that participate.

Eligibility is based on family size, citizenship status, and income, but exact requirements depend on the particular PHA. Generally, households may not make more than 50% of the county or metropolitan area’s median income. For more on eligibility, visit HUD’s fact sheet on vouchers. To find the specific requirements for your area, like income limits and family size, contact your local PHA.

To apply for a housing choice voucher, contact your local PHA. If you are eligible, but there are no vouchers currently available, you may be placed on a waiting list.

In some areas, landlords are not required by law to accept housing choice vouchers as a form of payment. Other places have what are known as source of income (SOI) laws, which do require landlords to accept housing choice vouchers as a form of rent payment.

The Poverty & Race Research Action Council provides a useful resource where you can search a list of jurisdictions with SOI protections.

Additional rental assistance options

Public housing

HUD’s public housing program serves qualifying low-income households, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Local public housing agencies (PHAs) help qualifying renters find safe, affordable places to live, which can range from rural homes to city apartments. To find out more, review the HUD fact sheet, or apply by contacting your local PHA.

Local rental assistance programs

Some state and local governments offer emergency assistance for rent and utilities. Visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)’s rental assistance finder and type in your state, territory, tribe, or tribal lands to find your local rental assistance programs.

COVID-related rental assistance

Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), renters in a property with a mortgage backed by Fannie Mae who are facing eviction for nonpayment of rent must be given at least 30 days’ notice to vacate the property.​ Use our Renters Resource finder to see if your apartment building is financed by Fannie Mae.

Connect with a housing counselor at no cost

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HUD-approved housing counselors are available at no cost to help you navigate local rental assistance programs. For example, they can explain the available resources and rental relief programs, guide you through conversations with your landlord, and even help you find a new home to rent.

Call 1-855-HERE2HELP (1-855-437-3243) or schedule an appointment.

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