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Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8)

Public Housing

This article explains the housing choice voucher program in Texas.

Here, find information on housing choice vouchers, including specific programs for veterans and persons with disabilities. You will learn about eligibility, how to apply, how to find a housing unit, and how rent is determined. This article also explains the obligations of tenants, landlords, and public housing agencies. 


The information in this article was written by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. It has been edited for style. 

Revised on November 14, 2022.  

What is the housing choice voucher program?

The housing choice voucher program helps low-income individuals and families to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. The program provides assistance with rent payments.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides funds to public housing agencies in Texas to operate the housing choice voucher program.

Is the housing choice voucher program the same as Section 8?


Who runs the housing choice voucher program in Texas?

Public housing agencies (PHAs) across Texas run the housing choice voucher program. Each PHA covers a specific service area.

To find PHAs in specific parts of Texas, visit HUD's list of Texas Public Housing Agencies or the Texas Housing Association's directory.

You may also call 211 for information on your local PHA.

Be aware that housing choice vouchers are not available in every part of the state.

Am I eligible for the housing choice voucher program?

Eligibility for a housing voucher is based on family size and composition, citizenship status, assets, medical expenses, and childcare expenses.

In general, your family's income may not be higher than 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area where your family chooses to live. The PHA serving your community can provide you with the income limits for your area. You can check HUD's website to see the median income for your area.

Vouchers are available to US citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status.

How do I apply for the housing choice voucher program?

To apply for a voucher, contact your local PHA.

To find PHAs in specific parts of Texas, visit HUD's list of Texas Public Housing Agencies or Texas Housing Association's directory.

For further assistance, contact the HUD Office nearest to you. 

What information do I need to apply?

The PHA will ask about your family’s income, assets, and the composition of your family. The PHA will verify this information with other local agencies, your employer and bank.

How do waiting lists work?

If you are eligible, the PHA will add you to a voucher waiting list. (In some cases, the PHA may be able to give immediate assistance.)

Once your name is reached on the waiting list, the PHA will contact you to issue the housing voucher.

How long will I have to wait?

Long waiting periods are common because the demand for housing assistance often exceeds available resources. A PHA may close its waiting list when there are more applicants than can be assisted in the near future.

PHAs may establish local preferences for selecting applicants from the waiting list. For example, PHAs may give a preference to a family who is homeless or living in substandard housing, paying more than 50% of its income for rent, or involuntarily displaced. Families who qualify for any such local preferences move ahead of other families on the list who do not qualify for any preference.

Once I have my voucher, how do I find housing?

If your family gets a housing voucher, you are responsible for finding a suitable housing unit where the owner agrees to rent under the program. This unit may include your present residence.

Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by the PHA.

For help finding available units, visit the Help for Texans page, provided by Texas Department of Housing and Community Development.

For additional support and resources, visit the Housing Search Assistance Toolkit, provided by HUD

How is the rent amount determined, and how much will I pay?

When you find a unit and reach an agreement with the landlord over the lease terms, the PHA must inspect the dwelling and determine that the rent requested is reasonable.

The PHA determines a payment standard. The payment standard is the amount generally needed to rent a moderately-priced unit in the local housing market. The payment standard is used to calculate the amount of housing assistance you will get.

The payment standard does not limit or affect the amount of rent a landlord may charge or the amount your family may pay. Your family can select a unit with a rent that is below or above the payment standard.

The PHA pays a housing subsidy directly to the landlord on your behalf. You pay the difference between the PHA payment and the actual rent.

Your family must pay 30% of its monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities. If the rent is greater than the payment standard, your family is required to pay the additional amount. By law, if your family moves to a new unit where the rent exceeds the payment standard, your family may not pay more than 40% of its adjusted monthly income for rent.

Can I keep my voucher if I move?

Yes. The housing choice voucher program is designed to allow families to move without losing their housing assistance. You can move as long as your family notifies the PHA ahead of time, terminates its existing lease within the lease terms, and finds acceptable alternate housing.

Under the voucher program, new voucher-holders may choose a unit anywhere in the United States so long as they lived in the issuing-PHA's jurisdiction when they applied for assistance.

If you are a new voucher-holder and did not live in the jurisdiction of the PHA at the time your family applied for housing assistance, your family must lease a unit within that jurisdiction for the first twelve months of assistance. If your family wishes to move to another PHA's jurisdiction, you must consult with the PHA that currently administers your housing assistance to verify the procedures for moving. 

What are my obligations as a tenant?

When your family selects a housing unit, and the PHA approves the unit and lease, your family signs a lease with the landlord for at least one year.

Your family may be required to pay a security deposit to the landlord.

After the first year, the landlord may renew the lease or allow your family to remain in the unit on a month-to-month lease.

Your family is expected to comply with the lease and the program requirements, pay its share of rent on time, maintain the unit in good condition, and tell the PHA about any changes in income or family members.

What is the landlord required to do?

Once a PHA approves an eligible family's housing unit, the family and the landlord sign a lease.

The landlord and the PHA also sign a contract that runs for the same term as the lease.

The landlord’s role is to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing to a tenant at a reasonable rent. The unit must pass the program's housing quality standards. The landlord must maintain the property at those standards as long as they get housing assistance payments. In addition, the landlord must provide the services listed in the lease and the contract signed with the PHA.

What is the PHA’s role?

The PHA enters into a contract with the landlord to make assistance payments on your behalf.

If the landlord fails to meet their obligations, the PHA has the right to stop paying.  

The PHA must review the family's income and composition at least annually. The PHA must also inspect each unit at least annually to ensure that it meets minimum housing quality standards.

Are there housing choice vouchers specifically for persons with disabilities in Texas?

Yes. The Project Access program uses housing choice vouchers to help low-income persons with disabilities move out of institutions.

Mainstream vouchers also help non-elderly persons with disabilities move out of institutions.

The Project Access program and the mainstream voucher program both aim to increase independent living and access to the community.  

Read more about these programs on the Housing Choice Voucher Section 8 Housing page, provided by TDHCA.

Are there housing choice vouchers specifically for Texas veterans?

Yes. The HUD Veteran Assistance Supportive Housing (VASH) program combines housing choice voucher rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA).  

Read more about the program on the Housing Choice Voucher Section 8 Housing page, provided by TDHCA.

Can I use my housing choice voucher to purchase a home?

Maybe. Under certain circumstances, a family may use its voucher to purchase a home.

Read more about this program on the HCV Homeownership Program page, provided by HUD.

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