Applying for Pennsylvania Section 8 Housing Vouchers

In this article...
  • The Pennsylvania Section 8 voucher program helps low-income families afford safe, clean housing. Learn about how the program works, eligibility and waitlists.

Pennsylvania residents with very low incomes can find it challenging to afford housing, but financial support is available. The Pennsylvania Section 8 program, named for the applicable section of the federal Housing Act of 1937, subsidizes the costs of renting decent, clean housing in the private market. This rental assistance program is more formally known as the Housing Choice Voucher program.

How the Housing Choice Voucher Program Works in PA

Applicants approved for a Pennsylvania Section 8 voucher receive rental assistance from their local public housing agency (PHA) to offset the costs of renting a private apartment, townhouse or single-family house. The housing assistance payment is paid directly to the landlord, and the tenant pays for the rest of the agreed-upon rent.

Tenants are responsible for finding their own housing in this program. The residence must meet basic minimum health and safety standards, and the landlord must agree to accept the Section 8 voucher. Once tenants find an appropriate rental unit, agreements are signed between the renter and the landlord, as well as between the PHA and the landlord. 

Eligibility for a Pennsylvania Section 8 Voucher

Pennsylvania residents submit Section 8 applications directly to their local PHA, which receives funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

Your eligibility depends on the median income level in your area. In general, your income can't exceed 50% of the median income in your county or metropolitan area. PHAs must also set aside 75% of available funds for applicants whose income doesn't exceed 30% of the area's median income.

Based on your income, assets and the size of your family, the PHA determines how much financial assistance you're eligible for and the size of accommodation you can rent. You may apply to more than one PHA at a time.

Is Section 8 Accepting Applications in PA?

The Housing Choice Voucher program is in extremely high demand in Pennsylvania, and applications to the program usually exceed the funds available. Most PHAs have long waiting lists, and some may stop accepting applications if the waiting list is too long. For example, both the Philadelphia Housing Authority and the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh have currently closed their Section 8 waiting lists.

PHAs can establish their own local guidelines, giving preference to families based on exceptional circumstances. For example, a PHA may decide that a family who is homeless may move ahead on the waiting list.

How Much Does Section 8 Pay for Rent in PA?

To calculate the amount of rent paid to your landlord through the Pennsylvania Section 8 program, the PHA uses a figure known as the payment standard, which is based on the local housing market. The payment standard is the amount it costs, on average, to rent a moderately priced apartment, townhouse or home in your area. 

You can rent a unit that costs more or less than the payment standard, but your portion of the rent is usually set at about 30% of your monthly adjusted income. The PHA then pays the difference between:

  • Your portion of the rent and the payment standard, or
  • Your portion of rent and the gross rent for the unit (including utilities), whichever is less

You can also rent a unit that's more expensive than the payment standard, but you must pay the additional amount. Your total portion of the rent can make up no more than 40% of your monthly income.

How Much Does Section 8 Pay for a 2-Bedroom in PA?

In general, the Pennsylvania Section 8 program pays landlords the difference between the payment standard in a region and 30% of the tenant's income. Each PHA establishes its own payment standards, based on fair market rents in the area and the number of bedrooms in the rental unit. In Philadelphia, there are also different payment standards based on zip code to account for variations by neighborhood.

In York, PA, for example, the York Housing Authority has set the payment standard at $1,044 for a 2-bedroom in the city and $1,126 in the county. The payment standard for a 2-bedroom in Lancaster, PA is $1,148,  according to the Lancaster City Housing Authority. The Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh has set its payment standard for a 2-bedroom at $1,079. Check with your local PHA for the most up-to-date guidelines.  

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