Finding affordable housing has become a formidable challenge for many Asheville residents. However, housing vouchers can bring rent down to a manageable amount.
In the latest edition of Xpress’ WTF feature – short for “Want the Facts?” – we explore the application process and eligibility requirements for housing vouchers and other forms of housing assistance.
What are housing vouchers?
The Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly known as Section 8, is a federally funded program intended to help low-income individuals and families afford safe, comfortable and affordable housing. In Asheville, the program is administered by the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville. There are two types of voucher assistance: project-based vouchers and tenant-based vouchers. In short, that means people can choose to live in subsidized housing, using the project-based voucher, or use the tenant voucher toward rent for an individual apartment or house that meets program requirements.
Project-based vouchers cap rent and utilities at 30% of a tenant’s income if it is under a certain amount. Any rent portion not covered is paid for by the program. With tenant-based vouchers, families earning less than half of the area median income can rent in the private market. Like the project-based vouchers, rent and utilities are capped at 30%-40% of their incomes.
Eligibility for a housing voucher is determined by the Housing Authority, based on the total annual gross income and family size. Aid is limited to U.S. citizens and those with eligible immigration status. By law, the Housing Authority must provide 75% of its voucher to applicants whose incomes are less than 30% of the area median income.
In the Asheville area, the median income for a family of four is $42,500 a year, and for individuals it is less than $29,750 yearly.
How to apply for a housing voucher
- Fill out an application at the Housing Authority for the City of Asheville. It will ask for identification documents such as birth certificates, Social Security cards and photo IDs for all members of the household. Proof of income, such as pay stubs or tax returns, is also necessary. Additionally, applicants must provide information regarding their rental history and any outstanding debts.
- Once an application is completed, qualified applicants are placed on a waiting list according to the date and time of their application and given local preference for which they may qualify. However, the waiting list is up to three years.
- When next in line, applicants will be scheduled for an interview with the Housing Authority to verify eligibility.
- If approved, the Housing Authority will inspect the rental unit to make sure it meets basic safety and health requirements.
Upon approval, the applicant will be issued a housing voucher. This voucher can be used to rent a suitable unit in the private market or to live in a subsidized unit, depending on the type of assistance granted.
Other housing resources
Emergency funds are available for families through Eblen Charities, a local nonprofit. It provides emergency assistance to families who are in financial crisis due to unusual circumstances. Depending on eligibility, Eblen may help pay past-due power, gas, water, rent or mortgage bills. Additionally, Elben will help cover rent deposits for those who are currently homeless or deposits for those living in a home without electricity. The programs are for those with a child in the home under age 18. More information and the application can be found at avl.mx/d2u.
Buncombe County also has a grant program for outstanding tax, mortgage or insurance bills. To be eligible, residents must have owned their primary residence for at least five years, earn less than 80% of the area median income and not have more than $60,000 in reserve. For more information, contact the Buncombe County Health and Human Services at 828-250-5500.