Illinois Section 8: How to Get Housing Assistance

In this article...
  • Learn how to get housing assistance through the Illinois Section 8 program and what the income limits and other eligibility rules are to qualify for benefits.

If you live in Illinois and struggle to pay rent due to low income or financial hardship, help is available. Through the Illinois Section 8 program, you can receive vouchers straight from the government that you can use in place of cash to pay rent. You can use Section 8 to live in the same apartment complexes and rent from the same private landlords as someone who's not a recipient of the program.

Due to skyrocketing rent prices, there is more demand than ever for Section 8 vouchers in Illinois. This has led to long wait times and frustration among residents needing help with rent. You can make the process as fast and efficient as possible by understanding what is required of you and how to go about getting benefits.

What Is the Illinois Section 8 Housing Voucher Program?

The Illinois Section 8 housing voucher program is administered by the state government and provides housing assistance in the form of vouchers that recipients can redeem through private landlords. The government provides the voucher to the tenant, who uses it in place of cash to pay rent with any landlord who accepts Section 8. As of June 2022, participation in Section 8 is voluntary for landlords in Illinois. But a bill working its way through the state legislature would make it illegal for landlords to discriminate based on voucher status.

Section 8 is a tenant-based voucher program, meaning the government provides the assistance directly to the tenant. This is different from a site-based voucher program in which the landlord or community receives assistance from the government — usually in the form of a tax credit — and passes the benefits to the tenant in the form of below-market rent. Illinois residents facing difficulty with housing costs but who aren't eligible for Section 8 might qualify instead for site-based assistance by applying directly with an income-based or tax-credit housing community.

Another form of site-based 
housing assistance in Illinois is government housing. These are housing units, commonly called projects, built and maintained by the state government. Of all the forms of housing assistance available in Illinois, Section 8 is the most flexible, as it provides the funds directly to the tenant, who can then use them to secure the housing of their choice.

Who Is Eligible for Section 8 Housing in Illinois?

The Illinois Section 8 program has strict income limits and other non-financial requirements. Learn what they are to see what assistance you may be qualified for.

Income Limits

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines three levels of low income based on how your annual earnings compare to the local median: 

  • Low income. Less than 80% of the local median.
  • Very low income. Less than 50% of the local median.
  • Extremely low income. Less than 30% of the local median.

Any income below 80% of the local median for your household size qualifies you to receive Illinois Section 8 vouchers. The amount of the voucher is based on which tier you are in. Households in the "very low income" and "extremely low income" tiers receive larger vouchers than those in the "low income" tier.

The maximum income to qualify for each HUD tier depends on the county or metro area you live in. The higher the median income in the area, the higher the income limits to qualify.

Here are the
Illinois Section 8 income limits for a single person, two-person household and four-person household in different parts of the state:

Metro area

Single person

Two-person household

Four-person household






































Non-Financial Eligibility Requirements

In addition to meeting the program's income requirements, you and the other members of your household must meet several non-financial requirements to receive Section 8 housing vouchers in Illinois:

  • Be U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.
  • Meet the HUD definition of a family (which is simply one or more individuals who live together and who do not have to be blood-related).
  • Pass a general screening of your criminal background and child support payment history (if applicable).
  • Complete the written application completely and accurately.
  • Complete an interview with a program representative.
  • Provide personally identifying documents, such as a driver's license or Social Security card.

What Do I Do Once I'm Approved?

Once you get approved for Illinois Section 8, you'll need to sign up for the waiting list in your county. Not all county waiting lists are open at all times. It depends on the current supply and demand for vouchers in your area. If your county's waiting list is not open at the time of your approval, you should keep checking back. They will often post the date on the local government website that the waiting list will begin taking applications again.

From the time you secure a spot on the waiting list, it could be days, weeks or months before your name comes up. Again, it's based on supply and demand for vouchers and the availability of housing in the area. The more landlords who accept Section 8, the faster the waiting list tends to move. Also, if you're a member of certain high-risk categories, such as being pregnant, blind, disabled, homeless, elderly or extremely low income, you might be able to receive priority placement on the waiting list. A local HUD representative, who you can find by calling (800) 569-4287, can determine if your application should be prioritized.

Do All Landlords Accept Section 8 in Illinois?

Not all landlords accept Section 8 in Illinois. The program is voluntary for landlords as of June 2022. But that might be changing if a bill currently in the state legislature becomes law. The bill would add payment method as a protected class that landlords are prohibited by law from discriminating against. Similar laws already exist in other states, such as Virginia.

The percentage of landlords who participate in Section 8 varies based on the area. If you live in an area with low Section 8 participation, it might be more difficult to find housing, even after you get off the waiting list and have your voucher in hand. The
HUD Resource Locator can help you find voucher-approved housing near you.

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