Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program
The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program is the federal government’s major program for assisting extremely-low and very-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, townhomes and apartments. The participant is free to choose any housing in the private market that meets the requirements of the programs.
The Housing Authority of East Baton Rouge Parish (Housing Authority) receives federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher program. 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 healt and safety, as determined by the Housing Authority. A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the Housing Authority 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.
Who is eligible (Admission Requirements)?
Eligibility for a housing voucher is determined 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. Applicants must also pass a criminal background screening and cannot be subject to a lifetime sex offender registration. In general, the family’s income may not exceed 50% of the median income established for East Baton Rouge Parish, although the Housing Authority targets assistance to those families at the extremely low-income (30%) level.
How do I Apply?
When the determination is made to accept applications, the Housing Authority advertises through advertisement in the local newspaper and the agency website (www.ebrpha.org) stating the date(s), location(s) and all other pertinent information needed to apply. Since the demand for housing assistance often exceeds the limited funding available to the Housing Authority, long waiting periods are common. In fact, the Housing Authority will close its waiting list when it has more families on the list than can be assisted in the near future. The Housing Authority does not provide emergency housing. The HCV waiting list is currently CLOSED.
The Rent Subsidy
The Housing Authority calculates the maximum amount of housing assistance allowable. The HCV family must pay 30% of its monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities. By law, at no time may a family pay more than 40% of their adjusted monthly income towards rent and utilities. The Housing Authority will pay the difference in rent to the owner on your behalf.
When a family selects a housing unit, and the Housing Authority 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 Housing Authority of any changes in income or family composition.
The role of the landlord is in HCV 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 the Housing Authority.
How does the HCV Program benefit the landlord?
Vacant units can drain an owner’s resources as the expenses continue despite the lack of revenue. Vacant units are an invitation to vandalism and security problems which create an undesirable and unsafe environment for the neighborhood as a whole. Because of this, vacant units drive down property values.
The Section 8 program is an opportunity for landlords to rent their units at fair market value while providing safe, decent and affordable housing to low-income families in the community.
There are many benefits to the landlord:
- As long as the tenant and the unit remain in good standing with the program, the landlord has the assurance of timely assistance payments paid directly to them each month by the Housing Authority.
- The program provides protection against tenants’ loss of income. If the tenant experiences a decrease in their household income, their assistance increases so the tenant can afford to stay in the unit.
- The Housing Authority also inspects the unit prior to move-in, annually and at special request of the tenant or landlord to ensure that the unit meets minimum inspection standards.
- Working with the Housing Authority gives novice landlords an opportunity to develop key property management principles.
- Most assisted tenants remain in one unit for several years giving the tenant a stable home environment and the landlord less turnover and vacancy loss.
Doing business with Section 8 is good business for the landlord and the community!
HCV Special Programs
Housing Choice Voucher HUD-VASH Program
The HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program in a joint effort between the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to move veterans and their families out of homelessness and into permanent housing. HUD provides housing assistance through its Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program that allows homeless veterans to rent privately owned housing. VA offers eligible homeless veterans clinical and supportive services through its health care system.
Who is eligible for a VASH voucher?
HUD-VASH vouchers are rental vouchers used specifically for homeless veterans. Families are determined eligible through the VA and sent as a referral to the Housing Authority for rental assistance. The VA is responsible to determine the eligibility of the veterans and the Housing Authority is responsible to determine income eligibility as well as ensure the veteran or any household member is not a registered sex offender. The family is required to receive case management from the VA until the VA determines it is no longer necessary. Families must comply with both VA case management and HUD-VASH regulations in order to maintain assistance.
HCV MOD-REHAB Program
The Mod-Rehab Program provides rental assistance to eligible low-income individuals and families to live in specific apartments or buildings through a contract between the landlord and the Housing Authority.
How is the Mod-Rehab Program different from the HCV Program?
Most of the rules and requirements of the HCV Section 8 Program, referred to as tenant-based voucher program, also apply to the Mod-Rehab Program. However, there are a number of differences including (but not limited to):
- Under the Mod-Rehab Program, the Section 8 rental subsidy is tied to the apartment. Clients must continue to live in the specific unit assigned by the Housing Authority and the building owner or sponsor, or they will lose the Mod-Rehab assistance.
- Unlike tenant-based voucher holders, clients will not receive a voucher and will not need to find an apartment or complete a Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA) packet during the process of new admission to the Section 8 Program.
- Interested participants must apply through Volunteers for America (VOA). The VOA sends referrals to the Housing Authority to determine the client’s eligibility for the program.
HCV PBV Program
Project-Based Vouchers (PBV) provide rental assistance to eligible individuals and families to live in specific apartments or buildings. The Housing Authority contracts directly with the owners of Project-Based apartments and buildings.
Currently, the Housing Authority offers PBV assistance at the following communities:
- Autumn Place Townhomes
- River South II
- Roosevelt Terrace Townhomes
- Willow Creek Townhomes
Interested participants must apply to the PBV Waiting List when the list is open for new applications. Each location has its own waiting list. At this time, all PBV waiting lists are CLOSED.
How are Project-Based Vouchers different from regular Section 8 vouchers?
Most of the rules and requirements of the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program, also apply to Project-Based Voucher Program. However, there are a number of differences:
- Clients receiving PBV assistance, must move into the specific apartment assigned by the Housing Authority and the building owner.
- In addition to meeting eligibility requirements for the PBV Program, applicants must also meet suitability requirements (screening criteria such as credit and rental history) established by the building owner.
- Clients must live in that unit and meet all the lease and PBV Family Obligations for at least one year.
- Clients wishing to move after one year and who are compliant with the lease and Family Obligations, must give both the Housing Authority and the owner written notice to vacate in accordance with the lease and the Family Obligations. Once the client has given written notice, the Housing Authority will give the client priority on the HCV waiting list for a tenant-based (HCV Section 8) voucher when one becomes available.
- In addition to the mandatory obligations described under the HCV Program Guide, clients with PBV assistance may also be required to participate in a program of supporting services provided by the building owner, sponsor or other service agency.
HCV Homeownership Program
There are a limited number of HCV Program vouchers that are available for participation in the Homeownership Program. Interested participants must apply to the Homeownership Program (HO) Waiting List when the list is open for new applications. At this time, the Homeownership Program Waiting List is CLOSED.
What families are eligible to apply for Homeownership vouchers?
Applications to the HO Waiting List are limited to current participants of the EBRPHA’s HCV Program in good standing for at least one year prior to application.
How will I know when the Homeownership Waiting List is open for new applications?
When the HO Waiting List is to be opened, current EBRPHA HCV participants will be mailed a letter outlining the HO Program, the requirements of the HO Program and the method of application to the HO Waiting List including the date by which such application must be received and the date the HO Waiting List will be closed.
What are the eligibility requirements?
There are a number of eligibility requirements for the Homeownership Program, including, but not limited to:
- Minimum income and employment requirements (exceptions for elderly/disabled)
- Participation in homeownership educational workshop and counseling, good credit score
- Must be able to qualify for a home loan as determined by a mortgage lender
- Current participation, in good standing, in the EBRPHA’s HCV Program for at least one year prior to application
- Must be a first-time homeowner or cooperative member: a family that has not owned or had ownership interest in the past three years.
If I am already on the Homeownership Waiting List, how long should I expect to wait?
Due to the extremely limited number of HO vouchers, the number of HO applicants and the lengthy eligibility process, most applicants to the Homeownership Waiting List should expect to wait many years before their application reaches the top of the list.
How will I be notified that my application has reached the top of the Homeownership Waiting List?
When your application reaches the top of the HO Waiting List, you will be mailed an appointment letter for an eligibility interview. At that time, your eligibility for the HO Program will be determined.
Is there anything I should be doing while I’m on the Homeownership Waiting List to improve my chances for eligibility to the program?
As the HO Program requires good credit, families should work to improve their credit score. They should have no open collection accounts and no open judgments. Credit scores are determined by each individual mortgage lender.
Families should prepare to meet the minimum income and employment requirements of the Homeownership Program:
- Federal minimum income requirement. The family must have a gross annual income equal to the Federal minimum wage multiplied by 2000, based on the income of adult family members who will own the home. For disabled families, the minimum income requirement is equal to the current SSI monthly payment for an individual living alone, multiplied by 12. For elderly or disabled families, welfare assistance payments for adult family members who will own the home will be included in determining whether the family meets the minimum income requirement. It will not be included for other families.
- Employment requirement. Except in the case of elderly and disabled families, one or more adult(s) in the family who will own the home must be currently employed on a full-time basis (no less than an average of 30 hours per week) and must have been continuously employed on a full-time basis for at least one year before commencement of homeownership expenses. Continuous employment is defined as not having any breaks in employment exceeding two months.