What are Housing Choice (Section 8) vouchers?
The Housing Choice (Section 8) voucher program is the federal government's major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to rent decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Since the rental assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find and lease privately owned housing, including single family homes, townhouses and apartments. The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program. Housing Choice (Section 8) vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies. The Winchendon Housing Authority (WHA) receives federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer this voucher program. A family that is issued a rental voucher is responsible for finding and selecting a suitable rental unit of the family's choice. This unit may include the family's present residence. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety. The rental subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the WHA on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the total rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program. The total rent charged by the landlord must be approved by the WHA.
Rental Vouchers- How do they function?
The Housing Choice voucher program places the choice of housing in the hands of the individual family. A very low-income family who has been selected by the WHA to participate is encouraged to consider several housing choices to secure the best rental housing for its needs. The rental unit must meet an acceptable level of health and safety before the WHA can approve payments to landlords under the voucher program. When the voucher holder finds a unit that it wishes to occupy and reaches an agreement with the landlord over the lease terms, the WHA must inspect the dwelling and review the lease for approval. A rental voucher holder is also advised of the unit size for which it is eligible, based on family size and composition, and the applicable rent levels. Payment standards are used to calculate the amount of rental assistance a family will receive, but does not affect the amount of rent a landlord may charge or the family may pay. A family which receives a rental voucher can select a unit which rents below or above the payment standard. The rental voucher family will pay more than 30% of its monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities if the unit rent is greater than the payment standard. However, for first time lease-ups or whenever the voucher family moves, the family cannot pay more than 40% of their Adjusted Gross monthly family income toward rent and utilities. The family would never pay less than 30% of its monthly adjusted gross income if the total rent was less than the payment standard.
The Rent Subsidy
The WHA calculates the maximum amount of rental assistance allowable, which is the difference between the payments standard and 30% of the family's monthly adjusted gross income, and pays rental assistance. The amount of rental assistance paid by the WHA changes with the payment standard while the amount the tenant pays varies with the actual rent. For example, if a family locates a unit that rents below the payment standard, the family would not pay less than 30% of its monthly adjusted gross income for rent. On the other hand, if a family decides to rent a unit above the payment standard, it would pay over 30% of its monthly adjusted gross income for rent. The family's rent share also changes when its income or family circumstances change.
Roles- The Tenant, the Landlord, the Housing Agency and HUD
Once the WHA approves an eligible family's lease and housing unit, the family and the landlord sign a lease and, at the same time, the landlord and the WHA sign a housing assistance contract which runs for the same term as the lease. This means that everyone -- tenant, landlord and WHA-- has obligations and responsibilities within the voucher program.
Tenant's Role: When a family selects a housing unit, and the WHA 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 the WHA of any changes in income or family composition. The tenant must pay for and maintain the utilities designated by the lease as tenant responsibility in the name of an adult member of the assisted family.
Landlord's Role: 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 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 the WHA.
Housing Authority's Role: The WHA administers the voucher program locally. The WHA provides a family with the rental assistance that enables the family to seek out suitable housing and the WHA enters into a contract with the landlord to provide rental assistance payments on behalf of the family. If the landlord fails to meet his/her obligations under the lease, the WHA has the right to terminate assistance payments.
HUD's Role: To cover the cost of the program, HUD provides funds to allow the WHA to make housing assistance payments on behalf of the families. HUD also pays the WHA a fee for the costs of administering the program.
The following are some of the obligations for a family participating in any of our voucher programs:
1. The family must allow the WHA to inspect the apartment at reasonable times and after reasonable notice.
2. The family may not commit any serious or repeated violation of the lease.
3. The family must notify the WHA and the owner before the family moves out of their apartment, or terminates the lease.
4. The family must promptly give the WHA a copy of any owner eviction notice.
5. The family must use the apartment for residence by the family. The apartment must be the family's only residence.
6. The composition of the assisted family residing in the apartment must be approved by the WHA. The family must promptly inform the WHA of the birth, adoption or court awarded custody of a child. The family must request WHA approval to add any other family member as an occupant of the apartment. No other person (i.e., nobody but members of the assisted family) may reside in the apartment (except for a foster child or live-in aide as provided by HUD regulations).
7. The family must promptly notify the WHA of any family member who no longer resides in the apartment.
8. Members of the household may engage in legal profit making activities in the apartment but only if such activities are incidental to the primary use of the apartment for residence by members of the family.
9. The family must not sublease or let the apartment.
10. The family must not assign the lease or transfer the apartment.
11. The family must supply any information or certification requested by the WHA to verify that the family is living in the apartment, or relating to family absence from the apartment, including any WHA-requested information or certification on the purposes of family absences. The family must promptly notify the WHA of absence from the apartment.
12. The family must not own or have any interest in the apartment.
13. The members of the family must not commit fraud, bribery or any other corrupt or criminal act in connection with the program.
14. The members of the household may not engage in drug-related criminal activity or violent criminal activity or other criminal activity that threatens the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of other residents and persons residing in the immediate vicinity of the premises.
15. The members of the household must not abuse alcohol in a way that threatens the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of other residents and persons residing in the immediate vicinity of the premises.
16. An assisted family, or members of the family, may not receive Section 8 tenant-based assistance while receiving another housing subsidy, for the same apartment or for a different apartment, under any duplicative (as determined by HUD or in accordance with HUD requirements) federal, state or local housing assistance program. The family must notify the WHA of all changes in income, assets, and deductions within 10 days of the change. Changes in family composition must be approved prior to the change.