WHAT IS THE HOUSING CHOICE VOUCHER (HCVP)?
The Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) is administered locally by the Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority (ARHA. ARHA receives federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the HCV program, which is one of the federal government's major program for assisting low-income, elderly, and disabled families. Currently, there are approximately 1.5 million participants in the HCV program throughout the United States.
Participants in the HCV program are free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and are not limited to units located in subsidized housing.
Housing assistance is provided to families, and participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments, via the local private market. The rental units must meet HUD health and safety standards, and other program specific rules and regulations also apply.
Once all standards and regulations are met, the family will be cleared to move into the rental unit they have chosen. After reviewing the family’s income, a housing subsidy is determined and then paid to the landlord/owner directly by ARHA on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord/owner and the amount subsidized by the program.
HOUSING VOUCHERS - HOW THEY FUNCTION
The housing choice voucher program places the choice of housing unit in the hands of the individual family. The actual “voucher” is a document prepared by ARHA and given to the participants so that they can share the information with prospective landlord/owners. The voucher shows that the family is a current participant in the HCV program and notes the monetary amount, called the “payment standard,” that is being given based on bedroom size for which the family qualifies.
WHAT IS THE "PAYMENT STANDARD"?
Annually, HUD determines a “payment standard” for vouchers in the HCV program. The payment standard is the amount generally needed to rent a moderately priced unit in the local housing market. The more expensive a rental market is, the higher the payment standard. When payment standards are determined they are then used to calculate the amount of housing assistance a family will receive. A family may be able to select a unit with a rent that is below or above the payment standard. Family income determines if the rental unit is affordable.
WHAT PORTION OF THE RENT WILL THE PARTICIPANT PAY?
The HCV program participant family must pay at least 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. However, whenever a family chooses a rental unit where the rent exceeds the payment standard, the family may not pay more than 40% of its adjusted monthly income for rent.
HOW IS THE RENTAL UNIT INSPECTION INITIATED?
The rental unit selected by the family must meet an acceptable level of health and safety before ARHA will approve the unit. When the voucher holder finds a unit that it wishes to occupy and reaches an agreement with the landlord/owner over the lease terms, the family must submit a “Request for Tenancy Approval” form. This form is filled out by the prospective landlord/owner and submitted to ARHA. After the rent is calculated and found to be affordable, an ARHA inspector will inspect the rental unit. The unit must pass this inspection before the family can move in with ARHA subsidized rent.
WHAT CONTRACTS MUST BE SIGNED AND WHO IS INVOLVED?
Once ARHA approves an eligible family's housing unit and the lease is signed, the landlord/owner and ARHA will sign a housing assistance payments contract that runs for the same term as the lease. This means that everyone -- tenant, landlord/owner, and ARHA-- has obligations and responsibilities under the voucher program.
Tenant's Responsibilities: In addition to signing the lease, the tenant may be required to pay a security deposit to the landlord/owner. After the first year, the landlord/owner may initiate a new lease or allow the family to remain in the unit on a month-to-month lease. The family is expected to comply with the lease and the HCV program requirements, pay its share of rent on time, maintain the unit in good condition, and notify ARHA of any changes in income or family composition.
Landlord/owner’s Responsibilities: The role of the landlord/owner in the HCV program is to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing at a reasonable rent. The rented unit must pass the HCV program's housing quality standards (via inspection) and be maintained at that standards level as long as the owner receives housing assistance payments from ARHA. In addition, the landlord/owner is expected to provide any services agreed to as part of the signed and the contract signed with ARHA.
ARHA’s Responsibilities: ARHA provides a family with the financial assistance that enables the family to seek out suitable housing. ARHA enters into a contract with the landlord/owner to provide housing assistance payments on behalf of the family. If the landlord/owner fails to meet his/her obligations under the lease, ARHA has the right to terminate the housing assistance payments. ARHA must reexamine the family's income and composition and inspect each unit at least annually to ensure that it meets minimum housing quality standards.
CAN I MOVE AND CONTINUE TO RECEIVE HOUSING CHOICE VOUCHER ASSISTANCE?
A family's housing needs may 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, called “transfers” are permissible as long as the family notifies ARHA ahead of time, terminates its existing lease within the lease provisions, and finds acceptable alternate housing.
CAN I MOVE TO ANOTHER JURISDICTION?
Under the HCV program, voucher-holders may choose a unit anywhere in the United States where a housing voucher is accepted. This is called “Portability.” To be eligible for this, the family must live within ARHA’s jurisdiction, the City of Alexandria, for the first 12 months of assistance. Exceptions to this are made on a case-by-case basis. Moving a voucher from one jurisdiction to another is called, “Porting.” A family that wishes to move to another Housing Authority's jurisdiction must consult with the Housing Authority that currently administers its housing assistance to verify the procedures for moving.