Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
Known as "Section 8" is the Housing Choice Voucher Program, is a federally funded program that subsidizes rents for eligible participants who rent units in the private market. It is designed to assist extremely to very low-income families, the elderly and the disabled to rent decent, safe and sanitary housing. A housing subsidy is paid directly to the landlord on behalf of a participating family.
Am I eligible for a Housing Choice Voucher?
Eligibility is based on total annual gross income and family size. Eligibility is also limited to U. S. citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status. Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) is based on Fair Market Rents and Payment Standard guidelines issued by HUD to determine contract rents.
How can I apply for the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
You must first check to see if our wait list is open. Currently, we are not accepting applications. We will update our website with any announcement openings. If the wait list is open, there will be further information explaining how to apply.
How long will I have to wait to get my voucher?
Unfortunately, the need for Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers far exceeds their availability. When vouchers are available, applicants will be selected from the Housing Choice Voucher wait list.
What if I move while I am on the waiting list?
Coming soon we will have an Applicant Portal link for you to update your application. For now, please contact your housing case manager to provide your updated information. This is important so that we can notify you of any changes in your application status. You may also mail your updates to: Attn: Waiting List Intake, c/o Winter Haven Housing Authority, 2653 Avenue C S.W., Winter Haven, FL 33880.
What happens when I am chosen for a Housing Choice Voucher?
Once your name reaches the top of the waiting list, you will be notified by mail. The notice will provide detailed information regarding what you will need to provide.
What are Housing Quality Standards?
Our housing inspectors inspect units according to minimum habitability and program requirements as established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Polk County, FL Code Enforcement Standards. These standards are collectively referred to as Housing Quality Standards (HQS).
Housing Quality Standards were developed to ensure that all homes leased under Section 8 will be safe, decent and sanitary. It is important to remember that these are minimum standards, and that under Florida Law.
Can a Housing Choice Voucher unit contain lead paint?
If a child is under six years of age, the owner must provide us with a certification that the unit has been inspected and is free or properly abated of Lead-Based Paint or that the property was built after December 31, 1977.
How long do I have to stay in the apartment that I chose?
The initial lease cannot be less than 12 months. A landlord can choose to establish an initial lease longer than 12 months. After the initial 12 months, the lease term whether month to month or a certain amount of years is the decision of the provider. It is the policy of the WHHA that participants must remain in their unit for at least 12 months unless the landlord has given them notice to vacate or some other approved waiver is provided in writing.
How much rent will I have to pay?
At the briefing, you will learn how the amount of your rental subsidy is calculated based on the appropriate Payment Standard (PS). The amounts will differ depending on how many bedrooms your family is eligible for. You must pay 30% of your monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities. A utility allowance is determined by the bedroom size unit you are eligible for. By law however, a family that moves into a new unit can pay up to 40% of its adjusted monthly income for rent. All tenant rental amounts are determined by WHHA and you must not pay more than what is indicated by your Housing Specialist or you could be terminated from the program.
You pay your share of rent to the owner on the first of the month just like you would if you didn't have a voucher. The remaining balance of the Contract Rent will be sent to your landlord through our direct deposit set up.
Will I have to pay a security deposit?
If the Owner/Agent requires a security deposit, and most do, you must pay the amount to the Owner/Agent. We do not pay security deposits. The amount of the security deposit should follow the state legislation. Generally, most landlords will not ask for more than two month's rent (first and last).
Will the rent increase?
After the first year, owners can request rent increases. The request is sent in writing to us at least sixty days prior to the effective date. Rent increase requests are reviewed to make sure it is reasonable. If sufficient funding is available and the request is reasonable, the change is made automatically. If the increase exceeds the reasonable amount, the owner has the opportunity to negotiate an acceptable increase. If the owner won't negotiate the increase they may decide not to renew your lease, and you will have to find a new home when the lease expires.
What if there is a change in my family?
The lease lists all of the people who will live in the apartment. You, your landlord and the WHHA must agree in writing to amend your household members. The owner or WHHA is not obligated to allow you to add family members, unless someone already on your lease has a child through birth, adoption or foster care.
What if there is a change in my income?
Any time the income of any household member changes, you must notify WHHA and provide us with documentation of the change within ten days. Failure to notify us could result in you owing us.
What if I want to move?
You must remain in the rental unit for at least 12 months, unless you have been authorized to move sooner based on written documentation such as landlord notice to vacate or unit is in abatement. If you elect to move, you must come to the WHHA office to begin the transfer process. You will need to give official notice to both the Owner and WHHA. Please allow ample time to go through paperwork processing, transfer voucher and search amount issuance, securing a new unit and having it pass inspection as you determine how much time to factor in to your notice. Most families are successful with a 60 day notice.
Can I move out of Florida?
Yes. A Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher holder may take the voucher anywhere in the United States where a Public Housing Authority administers a tenant-based voucher program. This process is called portability. See our HCV Program Information Page for more information.