To be approved for Section 8 housing, the local public housing agency, or PHA, must first approve a family's eligibility based on certain criteria, such as the family's size and gross annual income. Typically, the gross annual income of the family can't exceed 50 percent of the area's median income.
In addition to family size and income, Section 8 vouchers are limited to U.S. citizens, and certain categories of people who have eligible immigration status. Also, the PHA is required to give 75 percent of its available housing vouchers to those families who are making less than 30 percent of the area's median income.
After determining eligibility, the head or heads of the family need to fill out an application and turn it in to the local PHA. In many cases, it is possible to fill out the application online. Once the application is received, there is generally a long wait due to the many people in need of this service. Certain circumstances can also effect how quickly a family gets approved for a housing voucher. PHAs generally give preference to families who are homeless, living in substandard housing, paying more than 50 percent of their income for rent or are involuntarily displaced.