HUD Clarifies Definition of “Independent Student” for Section 8 Eligibility

HUD LogoHUD published a notice in the Federal Register updating the list of items that public housing agencies and owners and managers of HUD-assisted housing are required to verify to determine whether a student’s income alone should be used to determine eligibility for Section 8 assistance. The updated items make HUD’s definition of “independent student” consistent with that used by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) since 2007.

In 2005, prompted by media reports that a number of college athletes received housing stipends as part of their scholarships and paid little or no rent because they were living in Section 8-assisted housing, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) inserted language in the FY06 HUD appropriations bill that closed loopholes allowing such misuse. Congress approved that provision, and HUD published a rule on December 30, 2005 implementing it. The rule prohibited providing Section 8 assistance to someone enrolled at an institution of higher education if that individual was under the age of 24, not a veteran, and not married, and did not have a dependent child or have parents who were individually or jointly ineligible for Section 8 assistance (see Memo, 1/6/06).

HUD issued supplementary guidance on April 10, 2006 providing exceptions, enabling students under the age of 24 to receive Section 8 if the student could demonstrate independence from parents or the absence of parents (see Memo, 4/14/06). This guidance also adopted ED’s definition of an “independent student” as one who meets at least one of the following criteria: is at least 24 years of age, is or was an orphan or ward of the court through the age of 18, is a veteran or currently serving on active duty, has legal dependents other than a spouse (e.g., children or elderly, dependent parent), is a graduate or professional student, or is married.

Congress expanded the definition of “independent student” in 2007, and ED modified its guidance to include students who were:

  • Orphans, wards of the court, or in foster care at any time when the individual was 13 years of age or older;
  • Emancipated or in legal guardianship;
  • Unaccompanied and homeless or at risk of homelessness.

HUD’s Federal Register notice formally adopts ED’s 2007 additions. The notice is at: