Completing a Section 8 housing application is the first step toward receiving free housing assistance from the federal government. To participate in a rent-to-own program through Section 8, you must first locate a public housing authority (PHA) that offers this type of assistance. Not all PHAs have rent-to-buy programs; some may only offer assistance in the form of rental housing vouchers.
If your local PHA does not offer a rent-to-own program, you can check with other PHAs and apply to any agency that does. However, keep in mind that depending on the PHA, you may be required to move to the area in which it serves in order to use vouchers to buy a home.
If you currently receive housing assistance through Section 8 or another assistance program for a rental unit, you will likely need to apply separately if you want to purchase a home. This is because the programs operate differently; standard Section 8 vouchers can be used for rental assistance, while the homeownership program is designed to help renters transition into homeowners.
Once you find a PHA that offers rent-to-own homes, it’s time to apply. Depending on the PHA, you can typically apply in person or online.
If you are approved for the Section 8 home buying program, you may be able to choose a home on your own. Some PHAs require you to search for homes that adhere to certain criteria. Others may select several homes for you and allow you to choose the one you like.
Before you find a rent-to-own apartment or house, however, you must typically attend homeownership counseling sessions conducted through the PHA. These sessions are designed to educate prospective homeowners on the homebuying process, including how renting to own works.
PHAs that offer rent-to-own programs may have additional requirements for participants and the homes they choose.
For example, some agencies may restrict the size of the home that you can purchase through the program. Most PHAs define acceptable homes as “modest.”
Others may require you to choose a home in a particular neighborhood or zip code. If this is the case, it may take some time to find a home that is available.
Some rent-to-own programs offered through PHAs are only available to Section 8 recipients who have rented for at least 12 months. Rules such as this are in place to ensure recipients are ready to take on such a large financial responsibility as homeownership.