Apply for Section 8 Housing in Dallas County, Texas
Applying for Section 8 in Dallas County, Texas is a lengthy process. Demand far outpaces the supply of affordable housing in this region of the country. When you do make it to the application stage, be prepared for background checks, multiple visits to the housing office, and patient waiting. However, the payoff is assistance with your monthly rent and the ability to focus on developing a stable financial footing.
Understanding Section 8 Housing
- Learn how Section 8 housing choice vouchers work. Section 8 is the federal government's way of providing safe and sanitary housing for very low-income, disabled, and elderly Americans. Section 8 provides vouchers for private housing; families or individuals provided a Section 8 voucher are responsible for renting their own housing unit from a landlord who agrees to participate in the program.
- Vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies. In Dallas County, the relevant agency is the Dallas County Housing Agency.
- The subsidy voucher is paid directly to the landlord by your public housing agency.
- You are then responsible for paying the difference between the subsidy voucher and the rent a landlord is charging for a certain housing unit. (For example, if your voucher is $400/month and the rent on your apartment is $600/month, you'll be responsible for paying the remaining $200/month.)
- Under certain circumstances, Section 8 vouchers may be used toward purchase of a modest home. To learn about this program in Dallas County, call 214-819-6060.
- Determine whether you are eligible for Section 8. Your eligibility will be determined by your local public housing agency -- the Dallas County Housing Agency -- and is based upon annual gross income, family size, and citizenship.
- Section 8 is limited to U.S. citizens and specific categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status.
- Generally, your family's income cannot exceed 50 percent of the median household income in your county or metropolitan area -- in this case, Dallas County, Texas.
- Public housing agencies are required to provide 75 percent of their funds to families whose incomes do not exceed 30 percent of an area's median income.
- Consult the Dallas County Housing Agency for specifics regarding income requirements in your county.
- Understand your obligations as a tenant. You must sign a lease agreement committing you to staying in your housing unit for at least one year. You may be required to pay a security deposit. Once in a unit, you are required to comply with lease and program requirements, pay your portion of the rent on time, maintain the housing unit, and notify your public housing authority of any changes in your income or the composition of your family.
- After one year, you may sign a new lease, or your landlord may allow you to switch from month-to-month renting.
- Section 8 benefits are portable; you may move as long as you notify your public housing authority ahead of time, follow the terms of your rental agreement, and find acceptable alternative housing.
Applying for Section 8 Rental Housing
- Check to see whether the Dallas County Housing Agency is accepting Section 8 applications. Demand for Section 8 housing outstrips supply in Dallas County. As a result, you will need to apply for a position on a waiting list, and even the waiting list is often closed to new applications. When the list does open, the county may only accept new applicants for a few days at a time.
- To learn whether Dallas County is currently accepting applications to the Section 8 waiting list, call 214-819-1871.
- Consult the Dallas County Housing Agency or online Section 8 assistance sites such as Affordable Housing Online regularly so you do not miss an opportunity to place your application on the waiting list.
- Ensure your application is complete. The Dallas County Housing Agency will collect information relating to your family income, assets, family composition, and citizenship status, so ensure you have all the documents you need to properly file your application. Dallas County will then verify much of this information with other local agencies, your employer, and your bank, so honesty is important.
- Order forms like birth certificates and citizenship documents ahead of time so you can provide all necessary documents when the waiting list does open. Remember, your window of opportunity may be limited.
- Note that counties may establish preferences for homeless families, those paying more than 50 percent of their income in rent, or those who have been involuntarily displaced. People in these categories may "jump the queue" and receive Section 8 vouchers ahead of others on the waiting list.
- Follow up on your application. Ensure you are available by phone, and check both your physical mail and your email regularly for updates on your application.
Seeking Related Options
- Evaluate your other options for low-income housing in Dallas County. The Dallas Public Library has compiled a useful list of tools for citizens seeking affordable housing.
- The Dallas Housing Authority provides a variety of services within the City of Dallas, including Section 8 programs and public housing. The estimated wait time for both types of housing is currently three to five years, and waiting lists for both types of programs are closed at present (October 2015).
- The City of Dallas Housing/Community Services Department provides a variety of services, including homeowner and mortgage assistance programs and neighborhood revitalization initiatives. Among the city's programs are Community Housing Development Programs that produce affordable housing through nonprofit partnerships with the city.
- Seek information on low-income renters' rights and related issues through the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service.
- Consider your geographic mobility. You may apply for Section 8 housing anywhere in the country. If you receive a voucher for a specific area, you are then committed to live in that area for a minimum of 12 months. You may have family ties, work commitments, or other obligations that keep you in Dallas County, but if you are mobile, you may consider searching online for public housing authorities that have open Section 8 waiting lists.
- Familiarize yourself with aid programs that may help you pay for other housing-related needs. For example, Texas residents may be eligible for programs offered through the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs that help with the cost of utility bills, fair housing claims, weatherization, homeless services, and even home ownership. Nonprofit agencies may provide similar forms of assistance. Consider whether one or more of these programs may help lift the burden of non-Section 8 rental payments.
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