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Issue: Winter 2022, Voices of IDD
Partners4Housing staff

Five tips for getting through the Section 8 voucher process

The process to create a shared living solution for your adult Loved One with I/DD comes with some good-sized challenges. One of the first hurdles to clear is securing that all-important Section 8 voucher. While there’s nothing too complicated about the process, it can take a long time and it can feel like you’re stuck in limbo instead of moving ahead.

We thought it might help to hear from a mom who recently went through the process of applying for a Section 8, and came out the other side successful, voucher in hand. We spoke to Debra Lutz, mom to Isabel, to get some insider tips.

Q: Creating a rental agreement for your adult child living with you can maximize their benefits. Did you do this?

Debra: Yes, Pam [Blanton] gave me the recommendation to do that. I wasn’t charging Isabel rent, thinking that would save her money. I didn’t realize that by doing so, we were actually reducing her SSI benefits by almost a third because they consider the free rent as “in-kind” income.

I used a standard lease agreement which I submitted to SSI and Isabel’s benefit amount was quickly bumped up.

Q: A lot of people may think they can only apply to the waitlist in the city where they want their child to live. Did you apply to more than one list?

Debra: I did! The process of finding and applying for open lists is really not too difficult. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, particularly because there are so many different cities with different HAs (housing authorities). I focused on cities in our state and that helped narrow it down. Once you get the hang of applying, most HAs ask for the same or very similar information. Pam was able to steer me to some great resources to find open lists, including Affordable Housing Online.

Q: What happened if you ended up getting on the waitlist in another city?

Debra: What I didn’t realize when I started is you can apply to housing authorities outside your own. People with disabilities can request "reasonable accommodation" for exceptions to the policy.

I ultimately applied to approximately 10 different waitlists. Our original voucher was from Tempe and we were able to port that to Phoenix by asking for a reasonable accommodation to rent from a family member in that area.

Q: Any tips for working with HAs?

The Housing Authority [in Tempe] was pretty helpful and communicated well throughout the process. If I ever felt like I didn’t know what was going on, I could reach out and they would give me an update.

Just be sure you stay on top of it so that too much time doesn’t slip by. Sometimes months would go by without any progress, so staying in touch with the HA made the wait bearable. Be realistic though; the process might take several months and in some cases even longer.

Q: What’s your best piece of advice for families just beginning to think about getting a Section 8 voucher?

Debra: Start early! There are a lot of moving parts and hurdles to clear, and each one takes time. In our case, I would say it took about a year, which I hear is fairly typical. If you were just starting out, I would recommend making sure you apply to several jurisdictions to increase your odds of getting off the waitlist and securing that voucher.

Start early is definitely our mantra around here,” says Pam Blanton, founder of Partners4Housing. “We counsel our families from the start to expect the process to take a year or more. A Section 8 voucher can sometimes take years to get, but once your loved one receives it, they can have it for their lifetime.

Setting up a shared living home can take 3-5 years.Creating the right shared housing solution takes vision, dedication, organization, and persistence.”

Debra credits Partners4Housing with helping prepare her for the challenges and ultimately receive that precious Section 8 voucher. “Having an expert like Pam is invaluable. She was able to walk me through every step along the way and increase our chances of success.”

Want to learn more? Sign up for our family webinar and bring your questions! Have an immediate question about shared living development? Contact us today.

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