The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program is a form of government rent assistance. In 2018, upwards of 5 million people across the country lived in a household that used a voucher to help pay some or all of their rent.

When Congress established Section 8 of the Housing and Community Development Act in 1974, one of the goals was to make sure people earning low wages could find “decent housing and a suitable living environment” outside of public housing units.

Today, people who meet income requirements can apply to the program to receive a voucher when they become available. If they are approved, selected and then find an apartment or house with the voucher, their local housing authority starts sending payments directly to landlords.

The payments cover some or all of the voucher holder’s rent. On average, each household will pay somewhere between 30% and 40% of its income on rent.

To create this guide, we spoke with dozens of people who have navigated the voucher process, as well as with property brokers, landlords, former housing authority workers, housing lawyers and housing advocates.

Read the guide on ProPublica.