GFHA Administrative Plan for the Housing Choice Voucher Program
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Chapter 1: Overview of the Program and Plan
PART II: THE HOUSING CHOICE VOUCHER (HCV) PROGRAM 1-II.A. OVERVIEW AND HISTORY OF THE PROGRAM The intent of this section is to provide the public and staff with information related to the overall operation of the program. There have been many changes to the program since its inception in 1974 and a brief history of the program will assist the reader to better understand the program. The United States Housing Act of 1937 (the “Act”) is responsible for the birth of federal housing program initiatives. The Act was intended to provide financial assistance to states and cities for public works projects, slum clearance and the development of affordable housing developments for low-income residents. The Housing and Community Development (HCD) Act of 1974 created a new federally assisted housing program – the Section 8 Existing program (also known as the Section 8 Certificate program). The HCD Act represented a significant shift in federal housing strategy from locally owned public housing to privately owned rental housing.
Under the Certificate program, federal housing assistance payments were made directly to private owners of rental housing, where this housing was made available to lower-income families. Eligible families were able to select housing in the private rental market. Assuming that the housing met certain basic physical standards of quality (“housing quality standards”) and was within certain HUD-established rent limitations (“fair market rents”), the family would be able to receive rental assistance in the housing unit. Family contribution to rent was generally set at 30 percent of the family’s adjusted income, with the remainder of the rent paid by the program.
Another unique feature of the Certificate program was that the rental assistance remained with the eligible family, if the family chose to move to another privately-owned rental unit that met program requirements (in contrast to the public housing program where the rental assistance remains with the unit, should the family decide to move). Consequently, the Certificate program was characterized as tenant-based assistance, rather than unit-based assistance.
The Housing and Community Development (HCD) Act of 1987 authorized a new version of tenant-based assistance – the Section 8 Voucher program. The Voucher program was very similar to the Certificate program in that eligible families were able to select housing in the private rental market and receive assistance in that housing unit.
However, the Voucher program permitted families more options in housing selection. Rental housing still had to meet the basic housing quality standards, but there was no fair market rent limitation on rent. In addition, family contribution to rent was not set at a limit of 30 percent of adjusted income. Consequently, depending on the actual rental cost of the unit selected, a family might pay more or less than 30 percent of their adjusted income for rent.
From 1987 through 1999, public housing agencies managed both the Certificate and Voucher tenant-based assistance programs, with separate rules and requirements for each. From 1994 through 1998, HUD published a series of new rules, known as “conforming” rules, to more closely combine and align the two similar housing programs, to the extent permitted by the law.
In 1998, the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act (QHWRA) – also known as the Public Housing Reform Act – was signed into law. QHWRA eliminated all statutory differences between the Certificate and Voucher tenant-based programs and required that the two programs be merged into a single tenant-based assistance program, now known as the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. The HCV program was modeled closely on the pre-merger Voucher program. However, unlike the pre-merger Voucher program, the HCV program requires an assisted family to pay at least 30 percent of adjusted income for rent.
The transition of assistance from the Certificate and Voucher programs to the new HCV program began in October 1999. By October 2001, all families receiving tenant-based assistance were converted to the HCV program.
1-II.B. HCV PROGRAM BASICS The purpose of the HCV program is to provide rental assistance to eligible families. The rules and regulations of the HCV program are determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The PHA (GFHA) is afforded choices in the operation of the program which are included in the PHA’s administrative plan, a document approved by the board of commissioners of the PHA. The HCV program offers mobility to eligible families because they may search for suitable housing anywhere in the PHA’s jurisdiction and may also be eligible to move under portability to other PHAs’ jurisdictions. When a family is determined to be eligible for the program and funding is available, the PHA issues the family a housing voucher. When the family finds a suitable housing unit and funding is available, the PHA will enter into a contract with the owner and the family will enter into a lease with the owner. Each party makes their respective payment to the owner so that the owner receives full rent. Even though the family is determined to be eligible for the program, the owner has the responsibility of approving the family as a suitable renter. The PHA continues to make payments to the owner as long as the family is eligible and the housing unit continues to qualify under the program.
1-II.C. THE HCV PARTNERSHIPS To administer the HCV program, GFHA enters into a contractual relationship with HUD (Consolidated Annual Contributions Contract). GFHA also enters into contractual relationships with the assisted family and the owner or landlord of the housing unit. For the HCV program to work and be successful, all parties involved – HUD, the GFHA, the owner, and the family – have important roles to play. The roles and responsibilities of all parties are defined in federal regulations and in legal documents that parties execute to participate in the program.
What Does HUD Do? HUD has the following major responsibilities:
Develop regulations, requirements, handbooks, notices and other guidance to implement HCV housing program legislation passed by Congress;
Allocate HCV program funds to PHAs;
Provide technical assistance to PHAs on interpreting and applying HCV program requirements;
Monitor PHA compliance with HCV program requirements and PHA performance in program administration.
What Does the GFHA Do? The GFHA administers the HCV program under contract with HUD and has the following major responsibilities:
Establish local policies to administer the program;
Review applications from interested applicants to determine whether they are eligible for the program;
Maintain a waiting list and select families for admission;
Issue vouchers to eligible families and provide information on how to lease a unit;
Conduct outreach to owners, with special attention to owners outside areas of poverty or minority concentration;
Approve the rental unit (including assuring compliance with housing quality standards and rent reasonableness), the owner, and the tenancy;
Make housing assistance payments to the owner in a timely manner;
Recertify families for continued eligibility under the program;
Ensure that owners and families comply with their contractual obligations;
Provide families and owners with prompt, professional service;
Comply with all fair housing and equal opportunity requirements, HUD regulations and requirements, the Annual Contributions Contract, HUD-approved applications for funding, the GFHA’s administrative plan, and other applicable federal, state and local laws.
What Does the Owner Do? The owner has the following major responsibilities:
Screen families who apply for tenancy, to determine suitability as renters.
The GFHA can provide some information to the owner, but the primary responsibility for tenant screening rests with the owner.
The owner should consider family background factors such as rent and bill-paying history, history of caring for property, respecting the rights of others to peaceful enjoyment of the property, compliance with essential conditions of tenancy, whether the family is engaging in drug-related criminal activity or other criminal activity that might threaten others.
Comply with the terms of the Housing Assistance Payments contract executed with the GFHA;
Comply with all applicable fair housing laws and do not discriminate against anyone;
Maintain the housing unit in accordance with Housing Quality Standards (HQS) and make necessary repairs in a timely manner;
Collect rent due from the assisted family and otherwise comply with and enforce provisions of the dwelling lease.
What Does the Family Do? The family has the following responsibilities:
Provide the GFHA with complete and accurate information as determined by the GFHA to be necessary for administration of the program;
Make their best and most timely efforts to locate qualified and suitable housing;
Attend all appointments scheduled by the GFHA;
Allow the GFHA to inspect the unit at reasonable times and after reasonable notice;
Take responsibility for care of the housing unit, including any violations of housing quality standards caused by the family;
Comply with the terms of the lease with the owner;
Comply with the family obligations of the voucher;
Not commit serious or repeated violations of the lease;
Not engage in drug-related or violent criminal activity;
Notify the GFHA and the owner before moving or terminating the lease;
Use the assisted unit only for residence and as the sole residence of the family. Not sublet the unit, assign the lease, or have any interest in the unit;
Promptly notify the GFHA of any changes in family composition;
Not commit fraud, bribery, or any other corrupt or criminal act in connection with any housing programs.