Do You Have to Pay Back Section 8?

HUD doesn't expect repayment for Section 8 but has other tenant requirements.
HUD doesn't expect repayment for Section 8 but has other tenant requirements. (Image: Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

Across the United States, people with low incomes struggle to find adequate housing. The government response to the needs of these people is the Section 8 program, which helps qualified individuals and families to cover the cost of rent. Many potential applicants to the Section 8 program wonder if they must repay what they receive in aid.

Section 8 Funding

Section 8 actually is part of the federal welfare program. Funding for the program comes primarily from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD gets the money it needs from the taxes people pay to the government. As a public, tax-funded program, Section 8, like other forms of welfare, does not require repayment.

How Section 8 Works

Section 8 is not a loan program. Rather it is a welfare program designed to help only low-income individuals. You apply for the program through your public housing agency, or PHA. The PHA typically then places you on a waiting list, as demand for Section 8 aid usually far outweighs the immediate availability of funds. When you reach the top of the waiting list, the PHA issues you a voucher. You give the voucher to your landlord or property manager and pay the difference between the voucher amount and the total rent amount.

Tenant Obligations

Because of the way the Section 8 program is designed and funded, HUD doesn't ask you to repay the voucher amount. However, in return, tenants must fulfill basic obligations. For instance, you must keep the rental unit in good condition, pay your portion of rent on time and adhere to the rules in your lease. You also have to notify your PHA of any changes to your income, as only low-income individuals may participate in the program.


Section 8 is supposed to help low-income individuals and families get into better housing that makes it easier to reestablish financial footing. Like other forms of welfare, the program is not designed to provide permanent help. When you get back on your feet, you could view your tax payments as an unofficial repayment for your aid, as HUD uses tax money to run the program. You also could show your gratitude by volunteering to work for HUD development programs or otherwise serving your community. These actions will help negate the social stigma associated with Section 8 participants and housing.

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