What is the Housing Choice Voucher Program?

The Housing Choice Voucher program (formerly called the Section 8 Program) is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market.

A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the Housing Authority on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.

The Housing Choice Voucher program offers two housing options, each with their own waiting list: tenant-based vouchers and project-based vouchers. Tenant-based vouchers allow assisted households to use a voucher at open rental markets units. The project-based voucher offers rental housing options at specific housing locations.

Project-based Vouchers

The project-based voucher (PBV) is one part of the HCV program. It helps pay for rent in privately owned rental housing, but only in specific privately owned buildings or units. That means that if you get a project-based voucher, you don’t get to choose the unit you live in.

The project-based voucher is for people with low income who are willing to live in specific housing units that are offered to them. When a unit is available, the Housing Authority will offer it to someone who is on the PBV waiting list. This is different from the tenant-based program, because if you accept PBV assistance, you do not get to choose the unit you live in nor do you get to keep your PBV benefit if you move.

After one year of assistance in a project-based unit, the family may switch to the tenant-based voucher program and exercise portability if they choose, with some restrictions.

Tenant-based Vouchers

Tenant-based vouchers allow participants to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments. The Housing Authority receives federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher program.

A family that is issued a tenant-based voucher is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of the family’s choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program. This unit may include the family’s present residence. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by the Housing Authority.

Am I eligible?

Eligibility for a housing voucher is determined by the Housing Authority based on the total annual gross income and family size and is limited to US citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status. In general, the family’s income may not exceed 80% of the median income for Santa Barbara County as published by HUD (see income limits here).

By law, the Housing Authority must provide 75% of its vouchers to applicants whose incomes do not exceed 30% of the area median income.

How do I apply?

The Housing Choice Voucher wait lists are currently closed to new applications, effective April 1, 2014.

Portability Questions?

For information about Portability, please click here.

NOTE: Please click here to read the Housing Authority’s letter to the Santa Barbara community regarding the current status of the Section 8 Program, dated May 10, 2017.