How does Section 8 work?

Here's how the Housing Choice Voucher program (Section 8) works:

Q.What are housing choice vouchers?

A. They are part of a federal government program that helps low-income families, the elderly and disabled be able to afford housing in the private market. Under the program, individuals and families are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, town homes and apartments. They are not limited to public housing projects.

Q. How are they administered?

A. They're administered locally by public housing agencies which receive money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher program.

Q. How do the housing subsidies work?

A. They're paid directly to the landlord by the housing authority on behalf of the participants. The family then pay the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program. In some cases, if approved by the housing agency, a family may use its voucher to buy a modest home.

Q. Who is eligible?

A. Eligibility is determined by the public housing agency based on the total annual gross income and family size and is limited to U.S. citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status. In general, a family's income can't exceed 50 percent of the median income for the county or metro area in which the family chooses to live. The Marietta Housing Authority for instance will pay up to $1,054 for a three-bedroom house on behalf of a family.

Q. What information is used to determine eligibility?

A. The public housing agency collects information on family income, assets and family makeup. That information is then verified with the applicant's employer and bank.