Section 8, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher program, is a rental assistance program for low-income households. Eligible applicants may receive a voucher to pay for part of their rent.
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocates Section 8 vouchers to housing authorities, like the Santa Monica Housing Authority (SMHA), to assist eligible applicants. SMHA is only allocated a limited number of vouchers and annual budget and must adhere to HUD’s rules and regulations to determine who is eligible to receive a voucher.
In 2017, SMHA received 19,000 pre-applications in one day, but only had a few hundred vouchers from HUD to utilize.
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According to HUD rules and regulations, local housing authorities may prioritize some applicants to reflect local housing needs and priorities. Everyone can apply for a voucher, but certain very low-income applicants will be given priority over others based on specific prioritization rules, listed below.
What does 'very low-income' mean?
- To be considered "very low-income," your total annual income, before taxes, must not exceed the following amounts, by household size:
- 1-person household must have income of less than $41,400
- 2-person household: $47,300
- 3-person household: $53,200
- 4-person household: $59,100
- 5-person household: $63,850
- 6-person household: $68,600
- 7-person household: $73,300
- 8-person household: $78,050
- To determine your household’s income, add up the gross income (your income before taxes ) of everyone that will be included on your application, plus any amount of money anyone in the household receives on a regular basis, like benefits, or regular financial assistance.
SMHA has a system of priorities in place, known as 'preferences'.
FIRST PRIORITY: Applicants in emergency situations who have lost, or are at risk of losing, their home in Santa Monica because of one of the following are prioritized first on the Section 8 waitlist:
- a natural disaster (flood, fire, etc.)
- domestic violence (under the Violence Against Women Act )
- an eviction under the Ellis Act
- an owner-occupancy eviction
- owner-occupancy decontrol of a rent-controlled apartment that results in a rent of more than 40% of income
Continuum of Care and supportive housing graduates also receive first priority, as do applicants who were terminated from the Section 8 program due to funding shortfalls.
SECOND PRIORITY: Santa Monica Section 8 waitlist prioritizes very low-income residents and employees who meet the following requirements:
Rent-control, rent-burdened residents
Santa Monica residents who live in a rent-controlled apartment and pay more than 40% of total income toward rent
Employed in Santa Monica
Families whose head of household works a minimum of 25 hours per week in Santa Monica (or did but lost employment on or after March 1, 2020, due to COVID-19-related reasons)
Santa Monica employed residents
Santa Monica residents who work a minimum of 25 hours per week (or did but lost employment on or after March 1, 2020, due to COVID-19-related reasons)
THIRD PRIORITY: SMHA prioritizes very low-income residents and employees who meet the following requirements:
- Are residents of Santa Monica and don't meet the live or work criteria for the second priority
NEXT ON THE LIST: Any applicant who does not meet the previous priorities.
What determines the subsidy amount?
Income, household size, and rent determines the subsidy.
What is the relationship between SMHA and a property owner?
SMHA executes a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Contract with a property owner when a voucher holder finds an apartment they want to rent. First, SMHA reviews the proposed rent to determine if the voucher household can afford the rent based on the household income, and conducts an inspection to ensure that the apartment complies with HUD's housing quality standards.
Once the HAP Contract has been executed with the owner, SMHA will begin making monthly rent payments to the owner. The owner is responsible for collecting the tenant's portion of the monthly rent. On a yearly basis, SMHA reexamines the household's income and modifies the HAP Contract accordingly. The apartment is inspected to ensure that it continues to comply with HUD's housing quality standards.
What type of housing is eligible?
Any rental housing in the City of Santa Monica may be eligible for the program (single family houses, townhouses, or apartments), provided that the housing conforms to housing quality standards.
Can a landlord refuse to accept a housing choice voucher?
No. Santa Monica Municipal Code § 4.28.030 says that landlords cannot "refuse to rent or lease a housing accommodation ... or otherwise deny to or withhold from any person or persons, a housing accommodation" on the basis of source of income.
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