I’m looking for Section 8 or public housing in Rapid City. How do I apply?

RAPID CITY, S.D. —  Affordable housing is hard to come by, and lower-income families can experience additional difficulties in the hunt for rentals. The Pennington County Housing and Redevelopment Commission (PCHRC) has two different programs to help meet the housing need though, and although wait lists are long, PCHRC Executive Director Bryan Achbach says that now is the time to apply for assistance.

The PCHRC helps provide two different forms of housing assistance; subsidized housing (also known as Section 8 housing) and public housing.

Section 8 Housing

Subsidized housing is provided by private landlords, and tenants rent directly from the landlords but receive a voucher that helps them pay the rent. If an individual qualifies for Section 8, they’ll pay about 30% of their adjusted monthly income towards housing, and the PCHRC pays the rest. “What we do is we provide a participant family a voucher where they would go into the private market, they would find a landlord that would rent them a unit,” Achbach explains.

The apartment units also must offer Section 8 housing, and must meet some requirements too. “It would have to be a qualifying unit. It can’t exceed certain rent levels set by the government, and then it also has to pass a housing quality standard inspection,” says Achbach. 

Public Housing

Public housing, also called Pennington County Housing (PCH), are units that are federally funded and then overseen and operated by Pennington County. Funding comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and just like subsidized housing, families must qualify for public housing.

What’s the difference?

There are a few differences for tenants between subsidized and public housing. First, the qualifications for each of the programs are different. The qualifying income is lower for Section 8 than for public housing. For example, the income for a 1-person household to qualify for Section 8 is $29,900, but the income for a 1-person household to qualify for public housing is $47,800.

Additionally, Section 8 is a nationwide program. If you apply for Section 8 in Rapid City and Pennington County and qualify for it, you can take your voucher anywhere that offers Section 8 housing, even if it’s out of state. “A family wouldn’t necessarily even have to lease in our own jurisdiction. They could take their voucher and go to another state or another county,” adds Achbach.

Why should landlords offer Section 8 housing for some of their units?

There aren’t currently any economic incentives for landlords to offer subsidized housing, but more than 30 apartment complexes in Rapid City do (the first page of the list is available here and the second page here). Achbach says it simply comes down to being a good neighbor. “Many of these landlords could be charging more in just the private market. The landlords know that we’re going to be around on a biannual basis to inspect their unit, so there’s really not [an incentive] other than just being good neighbor,” he says. 

When and how can I apply for housing assistance?

Achbach says that the time to apply for public housing is now. The waitlist is much longer for public housing, about 2 years currently. For Section 8 housing, the wait list is down to 4-6 months. “That probably won’t be that way for much longer,” he says. “I would recommend that a family not be overly concerned about just getting on the waiting list. The other thing is- it’s okay if they come to the top of the waiting list and they don’t need the assistance.”

If you think you qualify, for either or both programs, Achbach recommends that you do, and that “we don’t ask a lot of questions to get a family on the waiting list because we’re really concerned about eligibility on the date that we’re going to sign the contract with that family.”

You can start the application process for both subsidized and/or public housing here.

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