Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Fair Housing Act?
- What is subsidized housing?
- What is Housing Choice Voucher (formerly called Section 8)?
- What is federally assisted housing?
- What is meant by public housing or housing projects?
- What laws affect housing for people with disabilities?
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is the Fair Housing Act?
A. The Fair Housing Act is Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and it prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, and disability. It was amended in 1988 as the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA). The FHAA regulates all complexes completed after March 13, 1991. In addition to prohibited actions and reasonable accommodations, the act mandates six technical requirements for all units on ground floors in buildings without elevators and all units in buildings with elevators; they are:
- Public and common areas must be accessible to persons with disabilities.
- Doors and hallways must be wide enough for wheelchairs.
An accessible route into and through the unit.
- Accessible light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls.
- Reinforced bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars.
- Kitchens and bathrooms that can be used by people in wheelchairs.
Q. What is subsidized housing?
A. Subsidized housing generally refers to housing which is made available to persons of low income for less than the fair market rate. Subsidized housing programs vary by state, county and jurisdiction. Programs can be owned and/or operated by private companies with the help of funding by federal or local government agencies or by nonprofit agencies using charitable funding sources. Most programs charge participants 33% of their income (including Social Security benefits) toward rent. Limits on the total subsidy amounts available are usually based on family size.
Q. What is Housing Choice Voucher (formerly called Section 8)?
A. Housing Choice Voucher (formerly called Section 8) is a program that provides a subsidy or voucher to assist with housing costs. Housing Choice Voucher was begun in 1975 and is one of the government’s most successful housing programs.
An apartment’s rent must fall within certain guidelines to qualify. Not all jurisdictions have a Housing Choice Voucher program. Time periods when applications may be submitted for Housing Choice Voucher are usually limited and vary by participating jurisdictions. Housing Choice Voucher usually has a lengthy waiting list.
Q. What is federally assisted housing?
A. Private apartment complexes renovated with public funds may offer rent subsidies or reduced rents.
These complexes maintain their own independent application process and waiting lists with waits that are generally shorter than the wait for Housing Choice Voucher (formerly called Section 8) certificates or public housing.
Applications generally include federally established preference points. Preference point systems differ with the type of funding the program receives. Federal preference point categories may include the following: (a) paying more than 50% of your “income” toward rent; (b) involuntary displacement; (c) disability; or (d) living in substandard housing. Additional preference points in local jurisdictions often include living or working in that jurisdiction.
Q. What is meant by public housing or housing projects?
A. Some local governments own and operate a limited number of housing complexes in which all units are subsidized. Similar to Housing Choice Voucher (formerly called Section 8), the waiting list for public housing can be long and application lists are frequently closed. Public housing projects utilize preference point systems and generally have a lengthy application process.
Q. What laws affect housing for people with disabilities?
A. The four laws listed below are the major ones. Go to the www.southwestada.org/html/publications/dlh/housing.html for more information. Lesser court decisions or Executive Orders may affect you in your individual situation. If you are working with an attorney, he or she should be able to help you with those.
Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968) – as amended, prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and handicap (disability).
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) – prohibits discrimination based on disability in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II) – prohibits discrimination based on disability in programs, services and activities provided or made available by public entities. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) enforces Title II when it relates to state and local public housing, housing assistance and housing referrals.
Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 – requires that buildings and facilities designed, constructed, altered or leased with certain federal funds after September 1969 must be accessible to and useable by handicapped persons.
Northern Virginia Housing Resources
Public Housing/Housing Choice Voucher (formerly called Section 8) and Other Rent Assistance: The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority administers the public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs.
Most of the time, applications are closed, but call 703-549-7115 (Voice) for opening dates. You may also call this number to request a listing of subsidized apartments.
The Alexandria Department of Finance Administration, Tax Payer Assistance Unit manages an annual rent relief grant of $2,700. The application process is open year round and checks are mailed out year round as well. Call Ann Moore at 703-838-0930 (Voice) for further information.
Alexandria Housing Landlord and Tenant Division operates several programs including the Transitional Apartment Program for persons who are homeless, in danger of becoming homeless or currently living in a shelter. Housing counselors are available by appointment. To make an appointment, call 703-838-4990 (Voice).
The Office of Community Services, 703-838-0901 (Voice), manages emergency fuel assistance, food stamps and other emergency services in Alexandria.
A listing of Housing Assistance and Homeless Shelters in Alexandria can be found on https://www.alexandriava.gov/homeless-services/homeless-services
For more assistance finding housing visit Alexandria Affordable Units
Public Housing/Housing Choice Voucher (formerly called Section 8) and Other Rent Assistance:
The Arlington County Housing Division administers the Housing Choice Voucher certificate program. There is a long wait, usually several years, for certificates. To request a waiting list enrollment form, call 703-228-1450 (Voice). You may also request that a Housing Assistance Opportunities brochure be sent to you by calling 703-228-3765 (Voice).
Arlington County has a housing grant which provides a housing subsidy to eligible needy persons. More information at https://www.arlingtonva.us/Government/Programs/Housing/Get-Help/Rental-Services/Local-Housing-Grants
The housing information center additionally publishes the Arlington County Apartment Guide that provides rental cost, financial subsidy information and a map of neighborhoods for rental complexes in the county; you may request this by mail from the county by calling 703-228-3765 (Voice).
Emergency assistance and shelter referrals are provided by DHS at a separate location; a limited number of intakes are done each day on a first come first served walk-in basis. After an intake interview with a social worker, persons can receive one-time emergency assistance for rent, food, prescriptions and utility payments. Contact the Economic Independence Division at 703-228-1350 (Voice) for more information.
For more help visit Arlington County Affordable Units
Fairfax County, Fairfax & Falls Church Cities
Public Housing/Housing Choice Voucher (formerly called Section 8) and Other Rent Assistance:
The Fairfax County Department of Housing and Community Development administers the public housing and Housing Choice Voucher certificate programs.
There is a long wait, usually several years, for certificates. To request a waiting list enrollment form, call 703-385-3662 (Voice), 703-385-3578 (TTY) or 703-631-3366 (en español). There is a Waiting List Hotline to find out which waiting lists are open and accepting applications, it is 703-449-9050 (Voice). To arrange accommodations for applications, call one week in advance to 703-246-5104 (Voice).
You may also request a separate information sheet on subsidized housing programs from Fairfax County.
A listing of some shelters available in Fairfax County can be found on https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/homeless/emergency-shelters
For help visit Fairfax County Affordable Units
The Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly Section 8), funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is intended to provide low-income families, elderly persons with disabilities, persons with HIV and AIDS with safe, decent and sanitary housing at prices which they can afford.
These are rental assistance subsidies for eligible low-income families and handicapped or elderly persons.
All types of housing are available (i.e., single family homes, duplexes, condominiums and apartments) providing they meet Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing Quality Standards.
Applications and waiting list status checks will be taken every third Wednesday of the month between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. You may apply in person or by phone at 703-777-0353 (V/TTY).
For emergency housing services, including shelters and transitional housing, Loudoun County residents should contact Social Services at 703-777-0353 (Voice).
Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) is a voluntary program that provides Housing Choice Voucher participants the opportunity to achieve economic independence over a five-year period. This is achieved through the close assistance of a case manager who supports, mentors and links up FSS families to public and private resources in the community. Contact The Department of Social Services at 703-777-0353 (voice) if you are a current subsidy recipient and you are interested in applying to the Family Self-Sufficiency Program.
The Affordable Dwelling Unit Program is designed to provide affordable rental and for-sale housing (homeownership opportunities). Services are available to all citizens with priority given to income eligible residents who live or work in the county. Household income must exceed 30% but be less than 70% of median income for the area. New homes and apartments are located throughout Loudoun County. To apply for the program(s) call the Department of Social Services at 703-777-0353 (V/TTY) and ask to be pre-qualified for either the Rental or For-Sale Program.
Through the Down payment/Closing Cost Assistance Program, first time homebuyers wanting to purchase a new home through the Homebuyers Opportunity Program (HOP) or a re-sale/existing home can borrow up to $5,000 at 3% interest, to be used towards the down payment and closing costs. The loan is in the form of a second trust and is paid back over a five (5) year period. The loan is limited to first-time homebuyers or those who have not owned a home within the last three years. Funding is limited and available on a first come first serve basis. Please contact the Department of Social Services at 703-777-0353 (V/TTY) if you are interested in applying.
Operation Match is an innovative Home Sharing service of Loudoun County Department of Social Services that allows individuals to share their homes due to economic, companionship, or service reasons, or who need help to find affordable housing. Home Sharing Providers and Seekers must currently live in or are moving to Loudoun County. As a Provider or Sharer, the individual must be living independently and able to take care of their basic daily needs. No income requirements necessary. Call the Department of Social Services at 703-777-0353 (V/TTY) for more information.
Learn more at Loudoun County Affordable Units