Are you worried about finding affordable housing with a felony on your record? Well, worry no more: getting Section 8 with a felony is possible! In this article, we will guide you step by step on how to get Section 8 public housing assistance even if you have a felony. We understand that life can throw curveballs at us sometimes, and it’s important to know that everyone deserves a second chance.
When you live in the US, you can rely on the government and state authorities for lots of things. Multiple federal benefit programs are offered to citizens and residents throughout the state. One of the most popular sections of these benefits is rental assistance voucher programs, which help people with low and average incomes to cope with the problem of homelessness.
It is quite obvious that due to statistics, in 2023, almost 61% of Americans cannot afford to buy a home right now. Moreover, almost 36% of locals need to rent their homes and, of course, not every one of them can afford high rent and have issues with housing.
Thanks to the Housing Choice Voucher Program which works since 1937, housing providers can get money for the rent partially from the government and partially – from tenants. This helps to ease the burden on families and people with low income and regulates homelessness rates throughout the US. This Housing Choice Voucher Program is best known as Section 8.
Yet, the program has numerous rules and variable restrictions. Thus, many people whose life history includes criminal records, especially for violent crimes, are worrying about whether they have a chance to get affordable housing using this housing choice voucher program. The question is reasonable, as a felony charge can be a significant barrier to the Section 8 housing program. So, let’s get into more detail about the rules for convicts about federally funded housing programs.
Can a Felon Get a Section 8 Voucher? Brief Explanation of This Question
One of the most common questions we receive is “Can you get section 8 with a felony?” The answer is yes. But not in all 100% of applications for public housing assistance and the housing choice voucher program. This means you need to meet certain qualifications to find housing with a partial refund and a fair housing act.
Generally, as long as one year has passed since you committed the crime, and you have been released from prison on parole or probation, you can apply for Section 8 Housing. But, as usual, the devil is in the details.
For example, there are some exceptions to this rule.
- If the crime was violent or sexual in nature, it’s likely that you won’t qualify. This is especially relevant for felons who are included in the sex offender registry.
- Also, if you were convicted of selling drugs on the property of a federally assisted housing program (such as the program we talk about) or anywhere within 1,000 feet (ca. 305 meters) of federally assisted housing program property, then your application will also be denied.
We’ll talk about these disqualifications in detail further.
Can Felons Apply For Section 8?
The US law guarantees rights and liberties to be respected for all people living in the state. Convicted felons are not an exception from the list. Thus, you can try to apply for housing assistance and take part in federally funded housing programs like The Housing Choice Voucher Program.
While it is possible to apply for Section 8 Housing with a felony, the process is a bit different than applying for other housing. There are many factors to consider when applying, and having a felony will limit your options. While particularly, you need to meet the following requirements like income limits or eligibility to get housing assistance from the state, for people with criminal records, the rules are a bit different.
Criteria For Applying for Section 8 Housing With A Felony
There are a few criteria that you must meet before applying for Section 8 Housing with a felony on your record:
- You have been living in the United States legally for at least 5 years. There is no difference whether you are a citizen or a resident with a permit for residence. If you have a smaller term of residency and besides you haven’t passed a criminal background check flawlessly, it can ban you from qualification.
- You have lived in the state where you want to apply for at least one year (some states require more than one year). This rule is regulating criminal traffic, and it helps avoid situations of fraud caused to federally funded housing providers.
- Your felony was not related to the manufacture or distribution of illegal drugs, especially, meth. This is reasonable because private landlords do not want to increase drug-related criminal activity in their neighborhoods even if you are stuck with it.
- Your felony was not related to violent behavior or sexual misconduct. Officially, the criminal justice system ban from federal housing funding programs for only lifetime registered sex offenders. But in reality, the less violent is your crime, the higher are chances you pass a criminal background check and qualify for the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
- Your felony was committed no less than 5 years ago. And since that time, you weren’t convicted of any criminal activity. The older the prescription time for the offense, the better your chances to qualify.
- In some cases, you may need to prove that your crime wasn’t violent, it was not related to fraud, and it was not related to drug trafficking. This criterion is important for crimes committed less than 5 years ago.
What to do if you do not meet any of these criteria?
Of course, miracles happen sometimes. Yet, it is better to try to apply for other refunding or housing assistance programs instead of HUD housing, i.e., provided by your local housing authorities like city housing or community housing programs, or even local housing search agencies.
How Can I Apply?
You may be able to apply for public housing with a felony on your record. The Housing Authority may consider the type of crime and how long ago it was committed. That’s a regular criminal check which refers to all the applicants.
You must complete a written application to apply for public housing. The application is usually available to fill out online or at the local PHA office. So, it’s up to you to select how to get access to the federal benefits program.
You can apply for Section 8 housing with a felony record by following these steps:
- Check your eligibility for the program by looking at income requirements as well as whether or not you are currently using illegal drugs.
- Fill out all of the forms provided by your local authority in order to apply for Section 8 benefits.
The Main Information to List to Apply for Section 8 Housing
To get housing assistance, you need to provide authorities with clear, truthful, and detailed information about yourself. You’ll be asked to list:
- your name, address, and contact phone number;
- the names, ages, and relationships of any other people who would live with you in public housing;
- your income sources and amounts;
- any special needs or circumstances you have.
As housing providers and regulators will check thoroughly not only your criminal record but also this information, please, list it correctly and only with honest facts. If you are caught in dishonesty, your application will be disqualified.
3. Once an application has been submitted, applicants are placed on a waiting list.
You shouldn’t expect to get a voucher instantly. Often, it takes a lot of time to move on a waitlist to the #1 place.
4. Once a voucher becomes available, applicants will be contacted by their local PHA.
If you have a criminal record, you should expect that the Housing Authority will conduct a background check before deciding whether to approve your application. If the Housing Authority approves your application, they will place you on a waitlist while they find public housing that is available for you.
Learn the Best Way To Get Section 8 With A Felony
However, there are still ways to apply for Section 8 Housing with a felony. Each state has its own rules about eligibility for Section 8 Housing, so it is important to check with your local housing authority before you apply.
Quick & Best Way to Get Section 8 With a Felony
- The best way to get Section 8 with a felony is to get a lawyer. You can try to apply by yourself, but if you have any problems with the application then a lawyer will be able to help you out. It may seem costly, but there are options for free legal assistance for felons, so you can apply for it and get more chances to qualify.
- The truth is that there are many people who need help with their housing program vouchers. There are also people who don’t really understand how it works and how they can make it work for them. So, if you have a felony, the best thing for you to do is get a lawyer who can help you out.
5 Ways You Can Get Approved For Section With A Felony
There are many ways you can improve your application and maximize your chances of getting housing even with a felony conviction history. Below we’ll discuss 5 different ways you can get approved for Section 8 Housing with a Felony Conviction:
- Write a detailed letter explaining your situation and why you deserve housing. Consider it to be the analog of your motivation letter when you apply for a job. It works the same.
- Look for other low-income housing alternatives and review programs offered by local communities. We have mentioned local programs for cheap housing or refunds. Do not stick to only one program, as you can get higher chances to qualify when you apply for several sources of governmental support.
- Apply to the PHA (Public Housing Authorities). It is more lenient in regard to felons securing Section 8 Housing.
- Obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation, if eligible, or a pardon from the governor of your state, if possible. This brings you more credit in the eyes of PHA or HUD.
- Apply only after your criminal record has been expunged (in some states), or after 3-7 years have passed since your conviction (depending on the state).
What Will Disqualify You From Section 8: Main Restrictions and Peculiarities
Even if we imagine that you are clear in the eyes of justice, it is not a guarantee for you that you will be qualified for the housing voucher program. There are multiple intricacies which concern both governmental rules and local peculiarities of each state or even area.
Exact Reasons for Disqualification From Section 8
Below we’ll discuss more what will disqualify you from section 8 and the most tremendous questions which occur due to disqualification possibility.
Read a Detailed article on what will disqualify you from section 8 Here. But in a few words, for convicted felons, these disqualification reasons are as follows:
- Short time has passed since you committed the crime or were convicted.
- Your felony belongs to the ban list. These crimes are drug trafficking, sexual violence, crimes against children, illegal weapon possession, etc.
- You are still a drug addict and this is proved officially.
- You provided dishonest information about yourself while filling in the application form.
- You are not eligible to take part in the housing voucher program due to your high income or registered savings.
- Violations in paying rent previously.
- You have been previously dismissed from the Section 8 program.
Besides these, which are the most common, local PHAs may have their own ones, so it is better to consult with a lawyer about local peculiarities in advance.
Can a Man Live With You in a Section 8 Housing?
When you apply for private housing opportunities, you have to indicate all your family members who will live with you. But this is obligatory for official family members like spouses, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, and so on.
If you want to cooperate with a friend, a girlfriend, or a colleague to share the rent and develop a co-living unit, unfortunately, PHA is not happy with such a wish. Thus, in most cases, your application will be rejected. Section 8 doesn’t allow renting public housing options in terms of co-living.
Furthermore, you shouldn’t try to break this rule and secretly house someone in your rented house. Your landlord or even neighbors can simply rat you out, and you will be banned from the program immediately.
This rule works even for relatives and family members you missed in the list when filling out the application form. So, please, do not forget about anyone you live with.
How About My Family? Can It Be Disqualified from Section 8 if I Am a Felon
As usual, a felon in a family is not a barrier to applying for public housing vouchers. But your family can be disqualified if you do not meet the main requirements we’ve listed above. These are the terms of expiration of your crime and its relation to Section 8\s ban list.
Specifics of Low-Income Public Housing Rules for Felons: Who Has a Priority?
Even in terms of so specific Section 8 applicants as felons, there are priority markers which can make you move in the queue and get to the top faster. These priority factors are as follows:
- You have no current residence place, and you officially are registered in the shelter, or you are living on the streets and there are proofs you do so.
- Your state of health and medical history can also push you ahead if you have a serious medical emergency.
- You are a felon, but you experience domestic violence at the same time.
- You were justified or got a pardon.
- You live in the same area where you applied for a housing voucher. Locals get priority.
- Your current housing is condemned or it is considerably damaged and declared unfit for living.
In any case, you can also consult a lawyer to get some specific priority markers to qualify for a Section 8 voucher successfully.
Let’s make a brief conclusion. Being a felon is not an issue to be banned from governmental programs of support. You can qualify for Section 8’s benefits if you committed a crime 5+ years ago (and sometimes, even earlier) and your felony doesn’t belong to violent crimes, sexual abuse, and violence, drug trafficking, or fraud. Of course, to get a voucher for public housing rent, you need to pass a complex procedure that includes a criminal check, income check, current family status check, and eligibility check as well.
To avoid disqualification from the program, you need to do the following steps.
- Apply for the program either online or in the local PHA office.
- Indicate the whole information in the application form.
- Make it clearly and honestly.
- List all the family members who are going to live with you in Section 8 housing.
- Pass the check and get your number on the waiting list.
- Wait until free vouchers are available in your local housing authority.
- Get a voucher and move to a home that was approved by PHA as suitable for you.
Although being a felon is a great challenge for a Section 8 applicant, it is quite possible to acquire approval and get help from the government. If you also hire a lawyer to help you cope with the Section 8 application procedure, your chances can increase considerably. You shouldn’t think approval will help you rent a house or apartment lightning-fast. Sometimes, it can pass a long time since the application was approved until local PHA reps handle you a voucher. But the opportunity you get is definitely worth waiting for.
Besides, you shouldn’t stick to the only option we talked about in this article. There are some more federal, state, and local supportive programs for low-income residents. And you can apply for them along with your Section 8 application. This also may increase your chances.
In the end, we wish you not to be afraid to start a new page in your life and apply for the help of the US go.
Can I get Section 8 assistance if I have a felony?
Yes, it’s possible to get Section 8 assistance with a felony. Certain criteria, such as the type of crime and the time since the conviction, influence eligibility.
What’s the waiting period for applying with a felony?
Generally, if at least a year has passed since the crime and you’re no longer on parole or probation, you can apply. But violent or sexual crimes, and drug-related offenses near housing properties, may lead to disqualification.
Are there exceptions for violent or sexual offenses?
Yes, these types of felonies can often lead to disqualification, especially those involving sex offender registry inclusion or violent nature.
What are the criteria for felons applying for Section 8?
Criteria may include living legally in the US for at least 5 years, living in the state of application for a certain period, and ensuring the crime isn’t related to drug trafficking or violent behavior.
How can felons increase their chances of approval?
Applicants can write detailed letters explaining their situation, explore alternative low-income housing programs, apply to public housing authorities (PHAs), obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation, or apply after a certain period has passed since the conviction.
Can hiring a lawyer help with Section 8 applications for felons?
Yes, hiring a lawyer can be beneficial, as they can guide you through the process and increase your chances of qualifying.
Can someone live with me in Section 8 housing if they’re not family?
Generally, only official family members like spouses, children, parents, and siblings are allowed to live in Section 8 housing. Co-living arrangements are typically not permitted.
Read more information here: Who can live with you on Section 8.
Do certain priorities exist for felons applying for Section 8?
Yes, certain priority factors like being homeless, experiencing domestic violence, having a medical emergency, or living in the same area as the application can push applicants up the waiting list.