The Housing Choice Voucher Program is the federal government’s major program for assisting low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments. The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects.
A family that is issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of the family’s choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program. This unit may include the family’s present residence. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by CMHA and must pass a Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspection.
A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by CMHA on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.
How Much is My Rent?
CMHA calculates the maximum amount of housing assistance allowable. The maximum housing assistance is generally the lesser of the payment standard minus 30% of the family’s monthly adjusted income or the gross rent for the unit minus 30% of monthly adjusted income. A family cannot pay more than 40% of the family’s monthly adjusted income to rent and utilities at the time.
What is a Payment Standard?
CMHA determines a payment standard that is the amount generally needed to rent a moderately-priced dwelling unit in the local housing market and that is used to calculate the amount of housing assistance a family will receive. However the payment standard does not limit and does not affect the amount of rent a landlord may charge or the family may pay. A family which receives a housing voucher can select a unit with a rent that is below or above the payment standard. The housing voucher family must pay 30% of its monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities, and if the unit rent is greater than the payment standard the family is required to pay the additional amount. By law, whenever a family moves to a new unit where the rent exceeds the payment standard, the family may not pay more than 40 percent of its adjusted monthly income for rent.
How Long Can I Stay on the HCV Program?
In general, you may stay on the HCV program as long as you comply with program rules. If, at re-examination your family’s income is sufficient to pay all of the rent in a subsidized unit, CMHA will terminate the voucher if you have remained in that status for 180 days.
How is Rent Determined?
Your rent, which is referred to as the Total Tenant Payment (TTP) in this program, would be based on your family’s anticipated gross annual income less deductions, if any. HUD regulations allow CMHA to exclude from annual income the following allowances:
Based on your application, CMHA representative will determine if any of the allowable deductions should be subtracted from your annual income. Annual income is the anticipated total income from all sources received from the family head and spouse, and each additional member of the family 18 years of age or older. The formula used in determining the TTP is the highest of the following, rounded to the nearest dollar:
How do families obtain a HCV Voucher?
Generally, families may apply for the HCV Wait List when CMHA has the HCV waiting list open.
Are There Selection Preferences?
Sometimes there are. Giving preference to specific groups of families enables CMHA to direct their limited housing resources to the families with the greatest housing needs. Since the demand for housing assistance often exceeds the limited resources available to HUD and the local PHAs, long waiting periods are common. In fact, CMHA may close its waiting list when there are more families on the list than can be assisted in the near future.
CMHA has the discretion to establish preferences to reflect needs in its own community. These preferences will be included in CMHA’s Administrative Plan. You should ask what preferences they honor so you will know whether you qualify for a preference.
How long do I have to wait for an eligibility appointment if I am selected to be placed on the waiting list?
There are several factors that influence how long a person may have to wait:
The combination of these factors determines movement of the waiting list. Our best estimate for the wait time is one to three years.
Am I Eligible for the HCV Program?
Eligibility for a housing voucher is determined by CMHA based on the total annual gross income and family size and is limited to US citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status. In general, the family’s income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which the family chooses to live. By law, CMHA must provide 75 percent of its voucher to applicants whose incomes do not exceed 30 percent of the area median income. Median income levels are published by HUD and vary by location. The PHA serving your community can provide you with the income limits for your area and family size.
During the application process, CMHA will collect information on family income, assets, and family composition. CMHA will verify this information with other local agencies, your employer and bank, and will use the information to determine program eligibility and the amount of the housing assistance payment
If CMHA determines that your family is eligible, CMHA will put your name on a waiting list, unless it is able to assist you immediately. Once your name is reached on the waiting list, CMHA will contact you and issue to you a housing voucher.
Can I Move with a HC Voucher?
A family’s housing needs change over time with changes in family size, job locations, and for other reasons. The housing choice voucher program is designed to allow families to move without the loss of housing assistance. Moves are permissible as long as the family notifies the PHA ahead of time, terminates its existing lease within the lease provisions, and finds acceptable alternate housing.
Under the voucher program, new voucher-holders may choose a unit anywhere in the United States if the family lived in the jurisdiction of the PHA issuing the voucher when the family applied for assistance. Those new voucher-holders not living in the jurisdiction of the PHA at the time the family applied for housing assistance must initially lease a unit within that jurisdiction for the first twelve months of assistance. A family that wishes to move to another PHA’s jurisdiction must consult with the PHA that currently administers its housing assistance to verify the procedures for moving.
Roles – the tenant, the landlord, the housing agency and HUD
Once CMHA approves an eligible family’s housing unit, the family and the landlord sign a lease and, at the same time, the landlord and the PHA sign a housing assistance payments contract that runs for the same term as the lease. This means that everyone — tenant, landlord and CMHA — has obligations and responsibilities under the voucher program.
Tenant’s Obligations: When a family selects a housing unit, and CMHA approves the unit and lease, the family signs a lease with the landlord for at least one year. The tenant may be required to pay a security deposit to the landlord. After the first year the landlord may initiate a new lease or allow the family to remain in the unit on a month-to-month lease.
When the family is settled in a new home, the family is expected to comply with the lease and the program requirements, pay its share of rent on time, maintain the unit in good condition and notify CMHA of any changes in income or family composition.
Landlord’s Obligations: The role of the landlord in the voucher program is to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing to a tenant at a reasonable rent. The dwelling unit must pass the program’s housing quality standards and be maintained up to those standards as long as the owner receives housing assistance payments. In addition, the landlord is expected to provide the services agreed to as part of the lease signed with the tenant and the contract signed with CMHA.
Housing Authority’s Obligations: CMHA administers the voucher program locally. The PHA provides a family with the housing assistance that enables the family to seek out suitable housing and CMHA enters into a contract with the landlord to provide housing assistance payments on behalf of the family. If the landlord fails to meet the owner’s obligations under the lease, CMHA has the right to terminate assistance payments. CMHA must reexamine the family’s income and composition at least annually and must inspect each unit at least annually to ensure that it meets minimum housing quality standards.
HUD’s Role: To cover the cost of the program, HUD provides funds to allow PHAs to make housing assistance payments on behalf of the families. HUD also pays the PHA a fee for the costs of administering the program. When additional funds become available to assist new families, HUD invites PHAs to submit applications for funds for additional housing vouchers. Applications are then reviewed and funds awarded to the selected PHAs on a competitive basis. HUD monitors PHA administration of the program to ensure program rules are properly followed.
For more information about this program, click on https://www.hud.gov/topics/housing_choice_voucher_program_section_8.