Q: What is Section 8?

A: In the Sept. 28 issue, Jeff Simms reported on the sale of the Tompkins Terrace housing complex in Beacon. Rents for the apartments in the development are subsidized by the federal government through a voucher program known as Section 8, after the part of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937 that authorizes assistance to low-income renters, including senior citizens and disabled people on fixed incomes and homeless families.

The program is administered locally by the Beacon Public Housing Authority. According to figures compiled by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, the local agency oversees 309 units in Beacon, and a total of 458 people.

The average family pays $449 per month in rent, and the federal government contributes $805. About 60 percent of households also receive subsidies for utilities that average $136 monthly.

The average annual household income for renters who have vouchers is $8,461 for individuals and $19,472 for families. In Beacon, the average wait time to receive a voucher is nearly five years.

In Putnam County there are 883 people and 587 units, with families paying an average of $400 monthly and HUD picking up $926. Eighty-six percent receive utility allowances that average $127. The average annual income of renters is $10,100 for individuals and $16,640 for households. The average wait time is just under three years.

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2 thoughts on “Q: What is Section 8?

    • We have called and emailed two people at the Beacon Housing Authority over the past month trying to find an answer to this question, to no response. The BHA website says its waiting list is closed except for studio and one-bedroom apartments for elderly or disabled households. It is likely just a shortage of available apartments. Landlords are not required to accept Section 8 vouchers and many don’t because they can charge more as rents rise. In Fort Worth and Los Angeles, for example, a recent federal survey found that more than 75 percent of landlords will not accept Section 8 vouchers as payment.

      The federal government doesn’t consider refusing to rent to someone because they have a voucher as a form of discrimination, but at least 13 states (not including New York) and many municipalities (including Westchester County and New York City) have outlawed the practice. A bill introduced in the state Assembly (A10077) in March and co-sponsored by Sandy Galef, who represents Philipstown, would ban landlords from refusing to rent to people with Section 8 vouchers.