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Section 8 Housing & Rent Assistance in Washington D.C.

Section 8 Housing & Rent Assistance in Washington D.C.

The cost of living in Washington D.C. is nearly 60% higher than the national average, with a large percentage of these costs dedicated to housing and utilities. As a result, thousands of Washington D.C. residents struggle to pay their rent or mortgage each month. Fortunately, if you need to find emergency housing, subsidized housing, or help to pay your rent in Washington D.C., you’re in the right place. 

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In today’s guide, we will go over some of the most useful programs, agencies, and resources so that you can access the help you need!

Section 8 housing DC

Section 8 Housing in Washington D.C. 

In this guide, we want to help answer all of your questions regarding Section 8 housing in Washington D.C. Qualifying and applying for subsidized housing can be complex, so it is best to go into the process well-informed. So, here are a few of the most common questions answered for you!

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What is Section 8? Section 8 is the name frequently used to refer to U.S. legislation granting funds to be paid directly to private landlords on behalf of low-income families. Though the laws dictating income limits and payment amounts have been amended over the years, Section 8 has been around in one form or another since 1937.

Does DC have Section 8 housing? Yes! Washington residents can apply for Section 8 housing.

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Who is eligible? Generally, you will need to be a U.S. citizen (or documented immigrant) who makes no more than 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI). There may be more specific requirements based on the availability of housing. For example, if you have a large family, you may not be eligible because there is simply not a big enough unit to accommodate your entire family.

What is the most Section 8 will pay? The amount Section 8 pays is based on your income. Any housing costs that exceed 30% of your monthly income will be covered by the Section 8 program.

How to Apply for Section 8 Housing in Washington D.C.

The District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) manages subsidized housing (commonly known as Section 8 housing) for low-income families in the area. Through their website, you can find the necessary documents and forms to apply for reduced-rent housing, calculate your utility allowance through the DCHA, see where you are on the waiting list, and even look at available properties. In short, the DCHA makes it fast and easy to start the application process and learn as much as you can about your Section 8 housing options in Washington D.C.

To make the process even easier, we have provided some information that can help make the application process as painless as possible. First, you will want to gather the right documents. Most Section 8 applicants will need to provide their original birth certificates, Social Security cards, driver’s license, an alternate state or federal ID, and immigration papers (if applicable). These documents must be provided for every family member who will be living in the unit. You will also need to provide pay stubs and bank statements for you and any other family members who contribute to your household income.

Once you have your documents in order, you can fill out the application by visiting the DCHA website or visit the office for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in your area. You can find the main field office address and phone number here:

District of Columbia Field Office

820 First Street NE, Suite 300
Washington, D.C. 20002-4205

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Phone: (202) 275-9200

Regardless of how you apply, you can expect to be put on a waiting list for housing. As soon as you reach the top of the list, you will be provided with a Section 8 tenant-based voucher. You can then use that voucher to find a rental unit that qualifies for Section 8 and is willing to accept the voucher. Alternatively, you can opt for a project-based voucher that may help speed up the process, though you will have less freedom to choose where you live.

Pros and Cons to Section 8 in Washington D.C.

More than 16% of D.C. residents live below the poverty line, while the national average rests around 11%. This means that there are thousands of applicants for Section 8 housing assistance in Washington D.C. every year. As a result, the process can take a very long time. This is the principal drawback of applying for Section 8 housing in D.C., as you could end up on a waiting list for a year or longer before getting a tenant-based voucher. During this time, if your income increases or you are involved in drug-based crimes that result in eviction from your current housing, you could end up disqualifying yourself before you’ve even made it to the top of the waiting list. That said, once you have your voucher, you simply need to show it to a landlord who will agree to work with the program and you can begin moving into your new home!

Washington D.C. low income housing

Emergency Housing in Washington D.C. 

While Section 8 housing is a great way to access affordable housing in Washington D.C., it is not a fast process. It can take weeks or even months to gain access to your new home via DCHA. So, if you are in more immediate need of housing that constitutes emergency assistance, you will likely need to take a different route. Thankfully, there are numerous sources that can provide you and your family with a quick roof over your head.

  • Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) – The DHCD can help very low-income families and people with disabilities find emergency housing or emergency rental assistance in Washington D.C. If you do not qualify for DHCD, you can still reach out to see if you qualify for one of their affiliate charities or programs right here
  • Coalition for the Homeless – If you are experiencing sudden homelessness or financial strain due to extreme circumstances like natural disasters, job loss, or violence, you could qualify for emergency housing via the Coalition for the Homeless. The program can provide emergency housing, permanent housing, transitional housing, and even assistance with finding a job or assisting your family’s needs based on your particular circumstances. You can learn more about getting help with emergency housing by visiting this link or calling this number (202) 347-8870.
  • Catholic Charities DC – Catholic Charities offers help through various homeless shelters and transitional housing programs in the D.C. area. You can learn more about getting emergency housing via Catholic Charities by clicking here.
DC rent help

Help Paying Rent in Washington D.C.

The vast majority of low-income residents in Washington D.C. simply need assistance making ends meet. For this reason, various public and private organizations are dedicated to helping families pay for housing costs and utilities as needed. Here are some of the most common and popular programs:

  • Washington D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS) – The DHS manages the local Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) for low-income families or individuals facing potential homelessness. Generally, you will need to make no more than 40% of the Area Median Income (AMI) to qualify for rental assistance. You can learn more via the official DHS website.
  • D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development – This branch of the D.C. government runs the Family Re-Housing Stabilization Program, which can provide families in need with the first month’s rent on a home, the security deposit, a basic furniture package, as well as rental assistance and case management for up to 12 months. You can learn more about this program right here.
  • Housing Counseling Services – Due to increased financial instability during the COVID-19 pandemic, D.C. Housing Counseling Services and other affiliate programs have increased funding for the Tenant Base Rental Assistance program. This program helps locals with their rent and utility costs. You can find the documents to apply for help and the requirements to qualify on this website
  • Washington D.C. Salvation Army – The D.C. chapter of the Salvation Army offers various programs to help pay rent and prevent eviction. It also offers other financial benefits for general housing costs like utilities. You can find additional resources and information on the Salvation Army website.
  • Stronger Together by Assisting You (STAY DC) – STAY DC is a local program run by the D.C. government to help simplify and consolidate all of the rental assistance programs available to D.C. residents. You can apply for assistance in person at one of several STAY DC locations, over the phone, or online. For more information on the requirements and waitlists, you can visit the STAY DC website or call 833-478-2932.
Washington D.C. houses

General Housing Assistance Resources

It is possible that you have exhausted all of the options above or do not qualify for assistance through any of these programs. However, there is no need to lose hope. There are still various charities and programs to either help you with direct funds or point you in the direction of a program that will take on your case. Here are a few of the best local and national resources to help you out:

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  • Consortium for Services to Homeless Families – The Consortium for Services to Homeless Families is a non-profit organization that aims to help families without housing get access to emergency, transitional, or permanent housing through subsidies and rental assistance.
  • 211.org – 211 is a national organization that offers information and guidance for families in need. It provides help on a wide range of services, from housing solutions to food and childcare costs.
  • Habitat For Humanity D.C. – Habitat for Humanity offers discounted housing services and information on local homeless shelters in various cities and districts throughout the United States, including Washington D.C.
  • Hope and a Home Inc. – Hope and Home is specifically designed to help families with children get back on their feet via financial and housing assistance. It’s primary mission is to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness in the D.C. area.

We hope you found our guide on Section 8 Housing & Rent Assistance in Washington, D.C. useful! For more information on housing assistance in your area, be sure to check out our Housing Help Page!

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Matthew Jones is a freelance writer with a B.A. in Film and Philosophy. You can check out his blog at Philosophy in Film.