Many research groups have invested time, energy, and resources analyzing the benefits of stable housing for individuals and communities. The list of positive outcomes is extensive and persuasive, especially regarding the long-term impact on children. Access to affordable housing may:
- Improve health outcomes.
- Reduce stress.
- Increase a sense of security and control.
- Reduce health risks due to toxins, allergens, and other industrial dangers.
- Increase availability and reliability of health care delivery.
- Reduce exposure to infectious diseases.
- Improve physical and mental health.
- Reduce the risk of domestic abuse.
With these facts in mind, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has developed strategies to increase housing availability and access. One program is the use of housing vouchers.
What is a Housing Choice Voucher?
The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) is a federal government program that helps very low income families, the elderly, and the disabled afford safe, decent, and sanitary housing in the private market. With these vouchers, individuals can look for and obtain the housing that best suits their needs: single-family homes, apartments, or townhouses. The program does not limit housing options to subsidized housing projects.
Families that receive vouchers are responsible for finding suitable housing from property owners willing to rent under the program. To participate, owners must meet government-established health and safety standards and receive payment from a local public housing agency (PHA). The family agrees to pay the remaining portion of the rent due each month that the vouchers don’t cover. In certain situations, the family may be authorized to purchase a home using the voucher program.
Voucher Participant Responsibilities
Each participant in the voucher program has specific responsibilities to ensure the program is successful.
- Tenants: Eligible families who’ve found a qualifying home sign a one-year lease.The tenant is responsible for complying with lease and PHA requirements, timely rent payments, and taking care of the unit. Following the initial lease, the tenant and landlord may agree to another one-year or month-to-month lease.
- Landlords: The landlord must provide safe, decent, and sanitary housing at a reasonable price that complies with the PHA requirements.
- PHA: The PHA determines local eligibility and provides families with housing assistance with funds from HUD. The PHA then enters into an agreement with the landlord to provide payments on behalf of the family. In addition, it reviews family eligibility and inspects properties annually.
Who Is Eligible for Housing Vouchers?
HUD has established very specific criteria to qualify for a housing voucher. Consequently, local PHAs oversee voucher qualification and base approval on:
- Gross income: In general, it may not exceed 50% of the median income in that metropolitan area.
- Family size.
- US citizenship OR specific immigration qualified non-citizens.
The local PHA is responsible for gathering documentation and verifying information on family income, assets, and family composition. They will determine if a family qualifies for the program based on local requirements. Many areas have a waiting list for the voucher program. As a result, eligibility is no guarantee that a housing voucher will be available right away.
Voucher Program Waiting Lists
In Oregon there are 25 public housing and project-based voucher waiting lists. While these lists are open, families can apply to have their names added. Once voucher demand exceeds what the local PHA can handle in a reasonable time frame, a list is often closed to new requests. Once a list has closed it can remain that way for years.
The PHA also has the discretion to establish a local preference for selecting applicants to receive vouchers. Depending on local demographics, needs, and challenges, a PHA may prioritize certain individuals. For example, those involuntarily displaced, currently paying more than 50% of income for rent, or living in a health risk situation. Those that qualify for a designated preference move higher on the waitlist more quickly than those that do not.
How the Vouchers Work
One of the goals of housing vouchers is to give a family choice and control in their housing situation. These factors offer families an increased sense of dignity and independence. When a family is selected to participate in the program, they are encouraged to consider several different housing choices to find the one that best suits their individual needs. Once they have reached an agreement with a landlord, the PHA will inspect the property to ensure that it meets health and safety standards and determine if the requested rent is reasonable.
The PHA determines the standard local amount needed to rent a moderately priced unit. However, they give families the independence to determine if the unit is priced above or below the standard amount. Under program requirements, families must pay between 30% and 40% of its monthly gross income on rent and utilities.
Can I Move and Still Remain Eligible?
The voucher program is designed to allow for independence and natural family changes. Therefore, moving locations due to changing family size, job situations, and other reasons is relatively easy within the local PHA jurisdiction. However, families must notify the PHA ahead of time and fulfill all lease requirements before the move.
If the move is out of the current PHA jurisdiction, families should contact their representative and find out the requirements for eligibility and moving.
Your Local PHA
If you would like more information on the voucher system, you can contact your local Oregon PHA here, organized by county. Additionally, if you would like landlord-specific information on participating in the HCV program, HUD has comprehensive resources here.
Stable housing is an important investment into the lives of adults looking for independence, the children who rely on them for stability and safety, and the community wanting to grow connections and vitality in their neighborhoods. The Housing Choice Voucher program makes those investments in people and their communities.
Partner With the Experts
Providing safe and stable housing is a passion for many landlords, but navigating the special programs and requirements can be overwhelming. Partnering with experts can help you shoulder the burden of wading through the details, lessen your stress levels, and increase the value of your properties. Call or text Darla Andrew today at 503.515.3170 to learn more about how we provide the support you need to confidently enjoy the rental process.