The United States Housing Act of 1937 (the “Act”) is responsible for the birth of federal housing program initiatives, known as public housing. The Act was intended to provide financial assistance to states and cities for public works projects, slum clearance and the development of affordable housing for low-income residents. There have been many changes to the program since its inception in 1937. The Housing Act of 1965 established the availability of federal assistance, administered through local public agencies, to provide rehabilitation grants for home repairs and rehabilitation.
This act also created the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The Housing Act of 1969 created an operating subsidy for the public housing program for the first time. Until that time, public housing was a self-sustaining program. In 1998, the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act (QHWRA) – also known as the Public Housing Reform Act or Housing Act of 1998 – was signed into law. Its purpose was to provide more private sector management guidelines to the public housing program and provide residents with greater choices.
It also allowed PHAs more remedies to replace or revitalize severely distressed public housing developments. Highlights of the Reform Act include: the establishment of flat rents; the requirement for PHAs to develop five-year and annual plans; income targeting, a requirement that forty percent (40%) of all new admissions in public housing during any given fiscal year be reserved for extremely low-income families; and resident self-sufficiency incentives.
The Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) is administered locally by the Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority (ARHA) in the City of Alexandria. ARHA receives federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the HCVP, 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 HCVP throughout the country.
Participants in the HCVP are free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing.
Housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family and these participants are able to find their own housing via the local private market, including single-family homes, town houses, and apartments.
Rental units must meet HUD standards of health and safety. 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 will be 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.