Section 8 vouchers

To some, there’s nothing like receiving an offer letter in the mail from Miami-Dade County Public Housing and Community Development for a Housing Choice Voucher, better known as Section 8.

It’s even joyous when notified your ranking number has made its way to the top of the list. Imagine that! All those months and sometimes even years calling to check on the status of your application, looking in the mailbox and then the day finally comes that you’re scheduled for an eligibility interview. Just be sure gather all documents requested. Do not miss the appointment. In South Florida, where rental rates outpace wages, Housing Choice Vouchers are considered to be the keys to affordable living for both full-time and part-time workers and a surefire way to not pay more than 30 percent of one’s income on rent. Currently, the county’s public housing department subsidizes rent for more than 16,000 families on Section 8, while thousands more have been waiting since July 2008.

Valicia Day and her family waited seven years and finally got issued a voucher from Miami-Dade two-years ago.

“I was so anxious to get my voucher, I waited for a long time. When I applied I had two children, but when I finally got it, I had three by then. Now, that I got it, I want to know how to use it and what are the benefits to help me become independent, not dependent,” said Day.

Vouchers used locally, but

While housing programs provide assistance to many, there are ways to ensure your Section 8 voucher works for you. For instance, if you are already a participant of Section 8 and your housing needs change, some vouchers are portable, allowing you to move and not lose your voucher or subsidy. As with any process, there are steps that you must take first. To find out more information on portability for Section 8 vouchers, visit www.miamidade.gov/housing/portability.asp. There are also federal policies in place through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 2013, which protects all individuals who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, regardless of sex, gender identity or sexual orientation. Those protected by the VAWA Act should not be denied admission (applicants); should not lose continued assistance (tenants), or face termination from participating in the housing program altogether. In fact, there are resources to help and an emergency transfer plan available for victims of domestic violence.

Offered as a voluntary option is homeownership. If you participate in Miami-Dade’s Section 8 program, you just might be able to purchase your very own home by using a subsidy from the Section 8 voucher. Interested in doing so, locate your client identification number and call 305-403-3222 to add your name to the “Interest List” for homeownership. There are also other “allowances” such as payment for utility bills that may be available to you.

After you have selected an approved unit, there are disclosures that you must be made aware of such as lead-based paint and notification of your rights and obligations under the Violence Against Women Act, in addition to the lease. Should you require reasonable accommodations or a live-in aid to make your unit more accessible for you and your family to live in, there are some changes or modification that can take place.

Housing options and trainings

There are several ways to look for available properties being offered for rent, just be sure to beware of scams. One common site to search is www.GoSection8.com. Also, keep in mind there is a time limit for you to find a place once you receive a voucher; you are able to request an extension or two. After finding a place, and if it’s determined that the rental amount is far above your voucher amount, refer the landlord/owner to Miami-Dade County’s resolution number R-1093-01 which was sponsored by County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa and later approved by the board in 2011, which urges owners to lower rents. That ruling gives you the power to negotiate; use it. So you see, there are many ways to use your voucher. If it were me, I would make the most of my voucher and the resources, too. Soon, there will be training available for tenants from On the Grid Community Solutions LLC to inform and educate about housing rights.

Got a section 8 voucher? Have questions on how to use it? Share your story. Contact Daniella Pierre affordablehousingmatters@gmail.com

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