For Our New Friends
General Information for Residents
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 and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing developments.
Housing Choice (Section 8) vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies. The Worcester 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, as determined by the WHA. A 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 actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.
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.
The WHA determines a payment standard which is 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 must 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.
Can I move and continue to receive assistance?
A family's housing needs 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 rental assistance. Moves are permissible as long as the family notifies the WHA ahead of time, terminates its existing lease within the appropriate provisions, and finds acceptable alternate housing.
Under the voucher program, new voucher-holders may choose a unit anywhere in the United States if the family lived within the jurisdiction of the WHA issuing the voucher when the family applied for assistance. Those new voucher-holders not living within the jurisdiction of the WHA at the time the family applies for rental assistance must initially lease a unit within that jurisdiction for the first twelve months of assistance. A family that wishes to move to another jurisdiction must consult with the WHA to verify the procedures for moving.
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.
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. When additional funds become available to assist new families, HUD invites housing authorities to submit applications for funds for additional rental vouchers. Applications are then reviewed and funds awarded to the WHA on a competitive basis.
The following are some of the obligations for a family participating in any of our voucher programs.