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What is a housing voucher in Florida?

A housing voucher is a rental subsidy provided by the government to assist low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing. The housing voucher program is administered by local public housing agencies (PHAs) and funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

How do housing vouchers work in Florida?

There are a few main types of housing voucher programs available in Florida:

  • Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers – This is the main traditional housing voucher program that allows recipients to find their own rental housing in the private market. The PHA pays a portion of the rent directly to the landlord.
  • Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) – A voucher program for homeless veterans provided in partnership between HUD and VA.
  • Family Unification Program (FUP) – Vouchers for families involved in the child welfare system who need housing assistance to keep their family together.
  • Mainstream Vouchers – Targeted to non-elderly people with disabilities.
  • Project-Based Vouchers – Vouchers are attached to specific units rather than being tenant-based. This is usually in partnership with property developers.

To receive a housing voucher, individuals or families must meet certain eligibility criteria set by HUD, including having a household income below 50% of the area median income. Waiting lists for vouchers can often be very long due to high demand.

Once awarded a housing voucher, the recipient pays about 30% of their adjusted monthly income towards rent and utilities. The PHA pays the remainder of the rent amount directly to the landlord. The voucher holder must find a rental unit where the landlord agrees to participate in the voucher program. The unit must meet requirements for health and safety standards.

Voucher holders are allowed to move to a different unit after the first year. Portability features also allow moving to a different area or even out of state in some cases. Voucher holders are recertified each year to evaluate income and family composition changes.

What are the eligibility requirements for housing vouchers in Florida?

To qualify for a housing voucher in Florida, individuals and families must meet criteria set by HUD and local PHAs. Here are some of the main eligibility requirements:

  • Fall under low-income limits – Typically this means having a household income below 50% of the area median income adjusted for family size.
  • Meet citizenship/immigration status rules – Household members must have eligible citizenship or immigration status.
  • Pass criminal background checks – PHAs will screen for certain criminal activities that may disqualify applicants.
  • Provide Social Security numbers for household members.
  • Qualify as a family – Family can be a single person or a group of people related by blood, marriage, adoption or affinity that live together.

In addition to HUD rules, local PHAs may have additional requirements such as residency preferences, allowing veterans preferences, requiring good rental history, etc. Disabled applicants may also qualify for certain income disregards and deductions to help them meet the low-income thresholds.

How does the application process work for housing vouchers in Florida?

The application process for housing vouchers includes these main steps:

  1. Find local PHAs – There are around 50 local public housing agencies across Florida that administer vouchers in certain jurisdictions. Find the appropriate PHA for your area.
  2. Check eligibility – Review the income limits and eligibility rules to see if you may qualify before applying.
  3. Complete application – Submit a standard or online application to the PHA. Provide all required documentation.
  4. Get on waitlist – Due to high demand, most PHAs will place applicants on a voucher waitlist which can often take several months or years.
  5. Interview and verification – When selected from the waitlist, the PHA will interview applicants in person to verify all eligibility criteria.
  6. Voucher issued – If approved, applicants will be issued a voucher to search for housing on the private market.
  7. Find suitable housing – Recipients search for a rental unit that meets their needs and program requirements.
  8. Passed inspections – The unit must pass HQS inspections for health and safety standards.
  9. Sign lease – The landlord, tenant, and PHA sign a lease agreement initiating the housing assistance payments contract.

It is important to maintain contact information with the PHA when on the waitlist and respond within required timeframes during the process. The PHA will provide guidance on next steps once selected from the waitlist.

Where can housing vouchers be used in Florida?

Housing vouchers in Florida can generally be used statewide anywhere that has rental units available on the private market that meet the program requirements. This includes:

  • Single family homes
  • Townhomes
  • Apartments
  • Duplexes
  • Condos
  • Mobile homes

The most popular areas voucher holders look for rental units are in more populated metro areas and cities such as:

  • Miami/Fort Lauderdale Area
  • Tampa
  • Orlando
  • Jacksonville
  • Fort Myers
  • Tallahassee
  • Pensacola

Smaller cities and rural areas often have limited available rental units that accept vouchers. Housing supply, rental vacancy rates, and landlord participation in the voucher program can vary across different parts of the state.

What are the pros and cons of housing vouchers in Florida?

Here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages of the housing voucher program in Florida:


  • Provides affordable rent based on 30% of income
  • Allows choice in selecting rental housing
  • Can be used statewide with portability features
  • VASH vouchers assist homeless veterans
  • FUP helps keep families together
  • Mainstream vouchers target disabled


  • Long waitlists, often taking years
  • Limited landlord participation in some areas
  • Difficulty finding units that pass inspections
  • Voucher discrimination still occurs
  • Strict eligibility requirements
  • Budget cuts impact availability

Overall, housing vouchers provide essential rental assistance for low-income and vulnerable groups in Florida. But high demand and tight rental markets in the state make vouchers difficult to obtain and utilize in some cities and counties.

What is the average wait time for housing vouchers in Florida?

Due to tight budgets and overwhelming demand, wait times for housing vouchers can often be extremely lengthy in Florida. Here are some average statewide wait times:

  • Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers – 3 to 7 years
  • Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing – 6 months to 1 year
  • Family Unification Program Vouchers – 1 to 3 years
  • Mainstream Vouchers – 2 to 5 years

Wait times can vary significantly by county and city across Florida:

County Average Wait Time
Miami-Dade County 7 years
Broward County 5 years
Palm Beach County 4 years
Hillsborough County 3 years
Orange County 5 years
Duval County 4 years

Rural counties and smaller cities generally have shorter 1-2 year wait times. Checking with the local PHA to get on the waitlist as soon as possible is recommended.

What is the average value of housing vouchers in Florida?

The average annual value of a housing voucher in Florida is approximately $8,500 to $10,000. However, maximum voucher amounts vary by location based on the Fair Market Rent (FMR) set by HUD for each area. Here are some examples of average voucher amounts:

  • Miami-Dade County – $1,539/month or $18,468/year
  • Orlando, FL – $1,315/month or $15,780/year
  • Jacksonville, FL – $1,061/month or $12,732/year
  • Tampa, FL – $1,261/month or $15,132/year

Vouchers can be worth more in high-cost and tight rental markets like South Florida. Maximum voucher amounts are typically adjusted and published each fiscal year by HUD. The PHA may also apply voucher payment standards between 90-110% of the FMRs.

What are the best cities in Florida for using housing vouchers?

Some of the best cities for utilizing housing vouchers in Florida include:

  • Lakeland – Decent availability and low 7% rental vacancy rate.
  • Kissimmee – Family-friendly area near theme parks with available rentals.
  • Daytona Beach – Moderately priced beach town with shorter voucher wait times.
  • Melbourne – Space Coast region with solid supply of affordable rentals.
  • Fort Myers – Vibrant southwest Florida city with shopping and amenities.

Factors that make a city voucher-friendly include lower vacancy rates, rapidly expanding housing supply, higher landlord acceptance rates, and availability of public transportation. Smaller suburban cities and towns can sometimes be easier to find voucher-eligible units than in the most competitive urban cores.

What resources are available for housing voucher holders in Florida?

Here are some resources available for those with housing vouchers in Florida:

  • Florida Housing Search – Statewide rental listing service identifying voucher-friendly units.
  • Local PHAs – Guidance from PHA staff on using vouchers in their area.
  • Florida Veterans Support Line – Assistance for veterans applying for or using VASH vouchers.
  • Florida Bar Legal Services – Free or low-cost lawyers that assist with public housing issues.
  • Disability Rights Florida – Advocacy for people with disabilities using Mainstream vouchers.

Connecting with local community organizations, food banks, public transit, and health services can also provide support. Speaking with other voucher holders about their experience in certain neighborhoods and with specific landlords may also help identify the best rental options.

What are the rules for housing vouchers in Florida?

Key rules voucher recipients and participating landlords must follow include:

  • The unit must pass initial and annual HQS inspections for decent, safe conditions.
  • Rent amounts must be within the maximum limits set by HUD fair market rents.
  • Landlord must make repairs requested by the PHA.
  • Tenant must maintain the unit in good condition.
  • Tenant must pay their portion of rent on time each month.
  • Tenant must use the unit as their primary residence.
  • Tenant must report changes in income or family size to the PHA.
  • Tenant must follow the lease agreement terms.
  • Tenant cannot commit fraud, bribery, or any corrupt or criminal act in the voucher program.

Both landlords and voucher households must comply with all program rules and requirements. Failure to do so can result in termination from the program.

Can a housing voucher be used outside of Florida?

Yes, housing vouchers can potentially be used in other areas through portability features of the program. Here is how it works:

  • After living 1 year in the jurisdiction of the initial PHA, the voucher holder can request to port out.
  • The new PHA must have availability for incoming vouchers.
  • Voucher payment standards may change to the new area’s fair market rents.
  • The original PHA or new PHA will administer the voucher.
  • Tenant still must comply with eligibility rules and find an approved rental unit.

PHAs have discretion whether to allow portability. Reasons for moving must align with the program rules. Top destination states include Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.


In summary, housing vouchers are an invaluable rental subsidy for low-income families and individuals in Florida allowing access to safe, decent, and affordable housing options statewide. However, long wait times to obtain vouchers and difficulty finding approved units in the state’s tightest markets remain key challenges. Utilizing all resources available and understanding the program rules are key to successfully securing and maintaining rental housing with a Florida housing voucher.