Despite having some of the lowest housing costs compared with other parts of the country, residents of the state of Oklahoma still face significant challenges when it comes to finding affordable housing.
Depending on who you speak to, this could be blamed on different factors. Some may point to the low housing supply for low income families in certain regions. Others may say it is the quality of the buildings or the condition of the neighborhood environment.
But there are positive signs. In recent years, efforts have been made by the government to address these issues in Oklahoma. One of that is Section 8 Housing, or the Housing Choice Voucher Program. In this blog post, we will be providing you some useful information about applying for the program.
What is Section 8 Housing?
Section 8 Housing is a federal program that aims to give low-income tenants, seniors, and individuals with disabilities access to safe housing at affordable rates. Through distributing vouchers to eligible participants, the program helps cover a portion of their rents while allowing them to select a place best catered to their preferences in the private market.
How Much Rent Will Section 8 Pay for Me?
The maximum amount of rent that Section 8 covers is determined by the Fair Market Rent (FMR) rates for the location you chosen by the participant. Typically, the amount of Section 8 housing choice voucher you can receive is calculated based on your family's adjusted income and the applicable FMR rate.
If you are a first-time participant or are moving to a new place, you will have to pay your landlord up to 40% of your family’s monthly-adjusted income for the initial term of the rental contract. The limit will be removed after the initial term.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) publishes review and update FMR rates each year. So before searching for a place, make sure you refer to get the latest FMR rates for different areas.
Do I Qualify for Section 8?
There are few eligibility criteria for Section 8 in Oklahoma. Here are the main ones:
- Income Limits: Your household income can not exceed 50% of the median income for the county in which you choose to live.
- Citizenship: You must be a U.S. citizen or eligible immigration status.
- Criminal Record: You must not have any drug-related or violent criminal convictions or any record of evictions due to drug-related or violent criminal activities.
How Do I Apply for Section 8 Housing?
To apply for the rental voucher, you have to first find an appropriate housing unit that meets the Housing Quality Standards (HQS). In addition, your prospective landlord must agree to participate in the program. To find the right unit, you can refer to latest housing list from Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) or search for available housing at www.affordablehousing.com.
Once you've found the right place, take the following steps
- Complete the application on OHFA's website or submit a paper application. You will then be placed on OHFA’s waiting list.
- OHFA will review applications and select participants from the waiting list based on the date and time the application was received. If anyone in your family have disabilities, make sure you include proof of disabilities along with your application, as it will expedite the processing of your application. Additionally, OHFA gives preference to homeless applicants.
- Once you are selected, an OHFA Field Agent will reach out to you to schedule an interview. You will be provided an overview of the program and be required to bring documents that can prove your income and household composition during the interview. Then your application will be further reviewed and verified by OHFA.
- If your eligibility is confirmed after the interview, OHFA will issue a voucher and you will have 60 days to locate a suitable housing unit.
- Once the owner approves your rental request and agrees to participate in the program, you need to submit a completed Scheduling Request Form to OHFA to arrange a HQS inspection.
- OHFA will enter into a Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) Contract with the owner if all HQS requirements are satisfied and the rent is considered reasonable. You can then sign the lease with the owner.
- After the contract and lease are signed, OHFA will make payments to the owner as long as the family continues to meet eligibility requirements and the unit continues to meet HQS requirements.
How Long Do I Have to Wait in the Waiting List?
The processing time depends on a variety of factors. It could take several months to several years to receive rental assistance.
At present, you can check your status by visiting www.waitlistcheck.com or call (405) 879-6365, but there is no way to know exactly where you are on the waiting list.
More Public Housing Assistance in Oklahoma
In addition to the Section 8 housing, there are a few other low income housing or rental assistance programs in Oklahoma that you may be eligible for.
Performance Based Contract Administration
The Performance Based Contract Administration provides rental subsidy to eligible residents. But unlike the Housing Choice Voucher program, the rental subsidy is tied to the apartment, which means you will need to reapply each time you decide to move.
Under this program, you can apply for qualifying apartments by contacting the property management offices directly to ask about the specific criteria for each property. OHFA shares a list of eligible properties and contact information of property managers on its website.
Oklahoma Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF)
HAF supports qualifying homeowners that have experienced significant financial distress due to COVID-19. It can help with the reinstatement of delinquent mortgage, mortgage payment and deferral amount, partial claim amount, delinquent property tax, restoration of homeowner’s insurance, and delinquent Homeowners Association dues.
To qualify for these benefit, the property in question must be your primary residence and not listed for sale. You will also need to meet a few eligibility requirements, including income limits, citizenship status, financial resources and other mortgage related requirements.
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If you qualify for some of the above housing assistance programs, there is a good chance that you are also eligible for government assistance programs like the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and Lifeline. Through these programs, you can save on your mobile phone bill and, if you are a Oklahoma resident, get a brand new FREE smartphone!
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)
The ACP is a federal program that enables needy households to access cheaper quality phone and internet services. If your family income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or any members of your household receive Federal Public Housing Assistance, you will be eligible for the benefit.
The Lifeline Program
Similar as ACP, Lifeline provides discounted mobile service to financially disadvantaged residents in Oklahoma. To qualify, your or your family income must be at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Lifeline offers a basic phone service discount of at least $9.25 each month (up to $34.25 if you're living on tribal lands).
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