Housing Choice Vouchers

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Housing Choice Voucher (formerly known as Section 8) is an opportunity for area landlords to assist their community while enhancing their ability to find suitable renters. Some positive features of accepting Housing Choice Vouchers are:

  • Payments are mailed directly to the landlord.
  • Less chance of default since client is paying only 30 percent of income to rent.
  • Owner sets deposit amount.
  • Public Housing Authority (PHA) has landlord and property on list which helps reduce turnaround time for next tenant.
  • Owner is in charge of screening possible renters.

The Section 8 tenant-based certificate and voucher programs were created by Congress as an alternative to public housing and privately owned subsidized housing developments with two goals in mind:

  1. to allow low-income households more choice in housing
  2. to reduce the concentration of low-income households living in particular neighborhoods, especially in urban areas.

The Section 8 program is administered mostly by PHAs and provides tenant-based rental subsidies that can be used in privately owned rental housing chosen by the program participant that meets Section 8 guidelines. The PHAs are responsible for tenant selection, managing the subsidy account, and inspecting apartments before they are rented. Under the Section 8 tenant-based program, PHAs provide a rental subsidy directly to landlords on behalf of eligible tenants who select housing that meets program guidelines. In general, tenants pay 30 percent of their income in rent and the PHA pays the difference between this and the rent charged for the unit. Rents must be "reasonable" and equal to or below a Fair Market Rent established by HUD based on the median rent for the area. Since 1974, this program has become the major form of federal housing assistance available to very low-income households.

Under new public housing reform legislation, the Section 8 certificate and voucher programs were merged into the new Housing Choice Voucher Program. The Housing Choice Voucher program also provides a rent subsidy paid by the PHA on behalf of the program participant directly to the landlord. However, when new Section 8 participants receive a Housing Choice Voucher, they may pay no more than 40 percent of their income in rent. The amount of the Section 8 rent subsidy paid by the PHA is based on HUD Fair Market Rents for the area.

As mentioned above, until recently, PHAs were required to provide preference to very low-income families (income below 50 percent of median) who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. However, Congress recently eliminated these requirements. Under new federal laws, PHAs must target at least 75 percent of their Section 8 rent subsidies to households with incomes below 30 percent of the median income. PHAs may also establish other tenant selection preference categories that are consistent with local housing needs. For example, PHAs may adopt a local preference for people with disabilities, although there is no requirement that they must do so. There is usually a very long waiting list for Section 8 vouchers, and many PHAs open their Section 8 waiting lists for new applicants for very limited periods of time.

Over the past years, Congress has established separate "set-aside" programs within the Section 8 program. These special set-aside vouchers are administered in the exact manner as the conventional Section 8 vouchers, except that they are targeted to specific populations, such as persons with disabilities (both elderly and non-elderly); veterans; families reunifying with their children; persons using Medicaid service waivers; etc.

Interested landlords should contact their local Public Housing Authority to see if Housing Choice Vouchers are offered in their area. The PHA can send information on how to get started.

For a list of PHAs in Tennessee, go to the Housing Rental Page "Who Offers Rental Housing."