Embracing the Beauty of Home Ownership Through Section 8

It Starts By Listening to the Dream

Mikelle Learned’s story is a testament to the transformative power of home ownership, particularly for individuals navigating life with disabilities. Despite facing challenges, Mikelle’s journey illuminates the possibilities that Section 8 assistance offers in achieving this dream.

In 2004, Mikelle let her community and her family know she wanted her own home, but I needed to find out if she was up to the challenge, and so did the Section ( housing program. The test was whether she could successfully manage a rental unit for a year. Then, after her success in renting, she could apply for the homeownership program with Section 8.

It took a little creativity, teamwork, and clever negotiation for her to sign a lease for a great apartment in a building directly across the park from where she grew up in Denver. Amazingly enough, Mikelle could see her old home from her balcony on the 5th floor–where I still lived. The location allowed her to still grocery shop at the same store, get coffee, and go to the bank at her familiar locations. 

Preparing for life outside the family home was slow and deliberate so as not to overwhelm her with dramatic change. Mikelle went to her new home a few hours a day with one of her team members, then spent half a day buying furniture and staying the day. 

Mikelle needed overnight support, and we planned for that to come from a roommate. Thus, the process of finding the right roommate began. After eight months and two failed roommates, we found the perfect woman for Mikelle. That is when we knew if the right supports were in place, she could live in her own home, and we began the homeownership process with Section 8, Colorado. 

Section 8: A Beacon of Hope

In the last ten years, rental prices in Denver have escalated 82%, pricing out both residential providers and persons living with disabilities. Approximately 70% of our people living unhoused are people with disabilities. 

Aging people with disabilities are at high risk of being unhoused as their parents age and can no longer care for their family members or themselves. Family homes, once deemed secure housing for both, are becoming more vulnerable to disruption every year. The reality is frightening with the high rents in Denver and few residential providers and staff because of COVID and demographic shifts. 

Inclusive Housing Denver has a stunning report on housing and, fortunately, a plan to address it. While not everyone desires to own a home, for Mikelle, it has been one of the best decisions we have made for her. She has equity and a degree of financial freedom, knowing she has an appreciating asset that can be used if necessary.

Section 8 has been a lifeline for individuals like Mikelle, providing housing assistance and a pathway to independence and stability. 

How Does it Work?

Section 8 is a housing assistance program for low-income individuals, including those with disabilities. 

Section 8 Homeownership, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher Homeownership Program, allows eligible individuals and families with disabilities to use their Section 8 vouchers towards homeownership costs. Here’s how it generally works:

  1. Eligibility: To qualify, you must be a first-time homeowner, meet the eligibility requirements for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, and complete a homeownership counseling program.
  2. Finding a Home: You’ll need to find a home that meets the program’s requirements, including price limits and passing an inspection.
  3. Mortgage Financing: You’ll need to secure a mortgage from a lender. The voucher can pay a portion of your monthly mortgage, principal, interest, taxes, and insurance (PITI).
  4. Financial Responsibility: You are responsible for paying the portion of the mortgage and homeownership costs that the voucher doesn’t cover, as well as any homeowner association fees, utilities, and maintenance expenses.
  5. Duration: The homeownership subsidy is limited to 15 years, after which you are responsible for the full cost of homeownership. (This is a new element and doesn’t apply to Mikelle due to the age of her mortgage.)
  6. Resale Restrictions: If you decide to sell the home within a certain period, you may need to repay some of the assistance you received.
  7. Maintenance: You must maintain the home well and comply with all local codes and regulations. A biannual property inspection is required to ensure it is adequately maintained.

The specifics can vary depending on the housing authority administering the program and the state where you live. It’s essential to contact your local housing authority or HUD office for detailed information and to determine your eligibility. Discuss how Section 8 vouchers enable individuals with disabilities to choose homes that meet their unique needs and preferences.

Overcoming Challenges:

Finding a home that was accessible and in the neighborhood Mikelle desired was the first challenge. In 2007, the smell of a recession looming was in the air. Section 8 and the lending institution dropped her loan amount by $50,000. Fortunately, her timing was right, and she found a perfect condo. She had dropped the price by just that amount, and she had a friend who was a real estate agent sign the contract with her immediately. The bank required some repairs to pass inspection, and we were able to get assistance with those. Within a month, she was a homeowner.

Family and friend support is critical to filling out all the required paperwork, helping Mikelle maintain her home, and finding the necessary funding to keep things working. This is why homeownership may not be for everyone. 

One must put down roots.

The homeownership program is not ideal for those who move often. It is a one-shot deal. Once you use your voucher and sell your home, you are no longer eligible for another voucher, whereas a rental voucher is portable anywhere in the country. Something to keep in mind when deciding which program is best for you.

The Beauty of Home Ownership:

 Homeownership has given Mikelle a sense of pride, security, and freedom. As she states, she is the boss of her life. Owning her home empowered Mikelle to live on her terms and pursue her dreams with renewed confidence.

Advocacy and Community Support:

Mikelle’s exemplary experience is partly due to the steadiness of her family and community support. It started when everyone supported her dream, even when unsure of its success. Over the years, Mikelle’s example of home ownership has inspired others to consider living with support in their own home, giving them more choices than just moving into a group home or a host home if they desire. 

Lessons Learned and Future Aspirations:

If you doubt anything, doubt limits. Be a trailblazer and know that it will require steadfastness and diligence. It is the path of growth and underscores the importance of accessible housing options and equitable opportunities for all individuals, regardless of disability.


Mikelle’s remarkable journey, at the very least, inspires conversations about the profound implications of home ownership, disability rights, and a path out of poverty and home instability. 

We encourage readers to learn more about Section 8 assistance.