A Housing Choice Voucher, historically called “Section 8,” is a rental subsidy for low- income households in the United States. The Housing Choice Voucher Program is the largest federal subsidized housing program for low -income households in the US. State and regional authorities operate 2,500 voucher programs around the country. In the Twin Cities the Metro HRA and MPHA are two of ten housing authorities that operate the Housing Choice Voucher program.
The Housing Choice Voucher Program is not an entitlement program, and only about a quarter of families who qualify for the program actually receive a voucher. There are typically long waiting lists for families who want to receive vouchers.
Families who receive vouchers search for housing on the private rental market. The voucher acts as a coupon, so families can find housing affordable to them, and they only pay a portion of the rent. The housing authority pays the rest. If the family has no income, the voucher will typically cover the whole cost of the rent and provide the family with a subsidy to pay utilities. Vouchers are subject to regional rental ceilings, called payment standards, where the housing authority can pay only up to a certain amount for a unit based on the neighborhood, bedroom size, and amenities included in the unit.