GFHA Administrative Plan for the Housing Choice Voucher Program
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Chapter 5: Briefings and Voucher Issuance
INTRODUCTION This chapter explains the briefing and voucher issuance process. When a family is determined to be eligible for the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, GFHA must ensure that the family fully understands the way the program operates and the family’s obligations under the program. This is accomplished through both an oral briefing and provision of a briefing packet containing the HUD-required documents and other information the family needs to know in order to lease a unit under the program. Once the family is fully informed of the program’s requirements, GFHA issues the family a voucher. The voucher includes the unit size for which the family qualifies based on GFHA’s subsidy standards, as well as the issue and expiration date of the voucher. The voucher is the document that authorizes the family to begin its search for a unit, and limits the amount of time the family has to successfully locate an acceptable unit.
This chapter describes HUD regulations and PHA policies related to these topics in two parts:
Part I: Briefings and Family Obligations This part details the program’s requirements for briefing families orally, and for providing written materials describing the program and its requirements. It includes a particular focus on the family’s obligations under the program. Part II: Subsidy Standards and Voucher Issuance This part discusses the PHA’s standards for determining how many bedrooms a family of a given composition qualifies for, which in turn affects the amount of subsidy the family can receive. It also discusses the policies that dictate how vouchers are issued, and how long families have to locate a unit.
PART I: BRIEFINGS AND FAMILY OBLIGATIONS 5-I.A. OVERVIEW HUD regulations require the PHA to conduct mandatory briefings for applicant families who qualify for a voucher. The briefing provides a broad description of owner and family responsibilities, explains the PHA’s procedures, and includes instructions on how to lease a unit. This part describes how oral briefings will be conducted, specifies what written information will be provided to families, and lists the family’s obligations under the program.
5-I.B. BRIEFING [24 CFR 982.301] Notification of Briefing Prior to issuance of a voucher, the PHA must give the family an oral briefing and provide the family with a briefing packet containing written information about the program. Families may be briefed in individual face-to-face meetings, through group briefing sessions, or via remote briefing sessions.
GFHA Policy Families will be notified of their eligibility for assistance at the time they are invited to a briefing. The notice will be sent by first class mail and will also be sent by email if the family has provided a valid email address to GFHA. The notice will advise the family of the type of briefing, who is required to be present at the briefing, and the date and time of the briefing. The notice will also inform the family of any additional requirements for in-person or remote briefings as addressed in relevant policy elsewhere in this section. If the notice is returned by the post office with no forwarding address, the applicant will be denied and their name will not be placed back on the waiting list. If the notice is returned by the post office with a forwarding address, the notice will be resent to the address indicated.
In-Person Briefings At the briefing, the PHA must ensure effective communication in accordance with Section 504 requirements (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) and ensure that the briefing site is accessible to individuals with disabilities. For a more thorough discussion of accessibility requirements, refer to Chapter 2.
GFHA Policy Generally, the head of household is required to attend the briefing. If the head of household is unable to attend, GFHA may approve another adult family member to attend the briefing.
Families that attend group briefings and still need individual assistance will be referred to an appropriate GFHA staff person. Briefings will be conducted in English. For limited English proficient (LEP) applicants, GFHA will provide interpretation services in accordance with GFHA’s LEP plan (See Chapter 2).
Attendance GFHA Policy Applicants who fail to attend a scheduled in-person briefing will be scheduled for another briefing automatically. GFHA will notify the family of the date and time of the second scheduled briefing. Applicants who fail to attend twoscheduled briefings, without prior GFHA approval, will be denied assistance (see Chapter 3).
Remote Briefings [Notice PIH 2020-32] Remote briefings may be conducted over the phone, via video conferencing, or through other virtual platforms.
GFHA Policy GFHA has the sole discretion to require that briefings be conducted remotely in case of local, state, or national physical distancing orders, and in cases of inclement weather or natural disaster. If GFHA schedules a remote briefing, GFHA will conduct a face-to-face briefing upon request of the applicant as a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability if safety and health concerns can be reasonably addressed. In addition, GFHA will conduct a briefing remotely upon request of the applicant as a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability, if an applicant does not have child care or transportation that would enable them to attend the briefing, or if the applicant believes an in-person briefing would create an undue health risk. GFHA will consider other reasonable requests for a remote briefing on a case-by-case basis.
Accessibility Requirements for Persons with Disabilities and LEP Individuals As with in-person briefings, the platform for conducting remote briefings must be accessible and the briefing conducted in accordance with Section 504 and accessibility requirements. This includes ensuring any information, websites, emails, digital notifications, and other virtual platforms are accessible for persons with vision, hearing, and other disabilities. Further, providing effective communication in a digital context may require the use of individualized auxiliary aids or services, such as audio description, captioning, sign language and other types of interpreters, keyboard accessibility, accessible documents, screen reader support, and transcripts. Auxiliary aids or services must be provided in accessible formats, in a timely manner, and in such a way to protect the privacy and independence of the individual.
If no method of conducting a remote briefing is available that appropriately accommodates an individual’s disability, GFHA may not hold against the individual his or her inability to participate in the remote briefing, and GFHA will consider whether postponing the remote briefing to a later date is appropriate or whether there is a suitable alternative.
Due to the individualized nature of disability, the appropriate auxiliary aid or service necessary, or reasonable accommodation, will depend on the specific circumstances.
Limited English Proficiency (LEP) requirements also apply to remote briefings, including the use of interpretation services and document translation. See Chapter 2 for a more thorough discussion of accessibility and LEP requirements, all of which apply in the context of remote briefings.
Conducting Remote Briefings The PHA must ensure that the lack of technology or inability to use technology for remote briefings does not pose a disadvantage to families that may not be apparent to the PHA. The PHA must ensure that the family has appropriate technological access in order to fully participate in the remote briefing.
GFHA Policy At least 10 business days prior to scheduling the remote briefing, GFHA will provide written notification via first class mail and/or email to families participating in the briefing to advise of technological requirements and to request the family notify GFHA of any known barriers. If any family does not respond within five business days, or if the written notification is returned by the post office or the email is rejected, GFHA will contact the family by telephone to identify potential technological barriers and to determine which technology resources are accessible to the family. GFHA will resolve any barriers using the guidance in Section 6 of Notice PIH 2020-32, including offering the family the opportunity to attend an in-person briefing or have a one-on-one briefing over the phone, as appropriate.
GFHA will conduct remote briefings via a video conferencing platform when available. If applicants are unable to adequately access the video conferencing platform, the briefing will be conducted by telephone conferencing call-in. If the family is unable to adequately access the telephone conferencing call-in, the remote briefing will be postponed, and an in-person alternative or one-on-one briefing over the phone will be provided. GFHA will provide login information and/or conferencing call-in information and an electronic copy of the briefing packet via email at least five business days before the briefing. GFHA will provide a paper copy of the briefing packet upon family request, and may reschedule the briefing to allow adequate time for the family to receive the physical briefing packet.
GFHA will ensure that all electronic information stored or transmitted as part of the briefing meets the requirements for accessibility for persons with disabilities and persons with LEP, and is secure, including ensuring personally identifiable information (PII) is protected. GFHA will ensure that families who participate in remote briefings have the opportunity to ask questions as part of the briefing. If families lose connectivity during any remote briefing or otherwise feel they were unable to access information presented during the briefing, the family may request a one-on-one briefing over the phone or in person with GFHA.
Oral Briefing [24 CFR 982.301(a)] Each briefing must provide information on the following subjects:
How the Housing Choice Voucher program works;
Family and owner responsibilities;
Where the family can lease a unit, including renting a unit inside or outside the PHA’s jurisdiction;
An explanation of how portability works. The PHA may not discourage the family from choosing to live anywhere in the PHA jurisdiction or outside the PHA jurisdiction under portability, unless otherwise expressly authorized by statute, regulation, PIH Notice, or court order;
The PHA must inform the family of how portability may affect the family’s assistance through screening, subsidy standards, payment standards, and any other elements of the portability process which may affect the family’s assistance;
The advantages of areas that do not have a high concentration of low-income families; and
For families receiving welfare-to-work vouchers, a description of any local obligations of a welfare-to-work family and an explanation that failure to meet the obligations is grounds for denial of admission or termination of assistance.
Briefing Packet [24 CFR 982.301(b)] Documents and information provided in the briefing packet must include the following:
The term of the voucher, voucher suspensions, and the PHA’s policies on any extensions of the term. If the PHA allows extensions, the packet must explain how the family can request an extension.
A description of the method used to calculate the housing assistance payment for a family, including how the PHA determines the payment standard for a family, how the PHA determines total tenant payment for a family, and information on the payment standard and utility allowance schedule.
An explanation of how the PHA determines the maximum allowable rent for an assisted unit.
Where the family may lease a unit and an explanation of how portability works, including information on how portability may affect the family’s assistance through screening, subsidy standards, payment standards, and any other elements of the portability process that may affect the family’s assistance.
TheHUD-required tenancy addendum, which must be included in the lease.
The form the family must use to request approval of tenancy, and a description of the procedure for requesting approval for a tenancy.
A statement of the PHA policy on providing information about families to prospective owners.
The PHA subsidy standards including when and how exceptions are made.
Materials (e.g., brochures) on how to select a unit and any additional information on selecting a unit that HUD provides.
Information on federal, state and local equal opportunity laws and a copy of the housing discrimination complaint form.
A list of landlords known to the PHA who may be willing to lease a unit to the family or other resources (e.g., newspapers, organizations, online search tools) known to the PHA that may assist the family in locating a unit. PHAs must ensure that the list of landlords or other resources covers areas outside of poverty or minority concentration.
Notice that if the family includes a person with disabilities, the family may request a list of available accessible units known to the PHA.
The family obligations under the program, including any obligations of a welfare-to-work family.
The grounds on which the PHA may terminate assistance for a participant family because of family action or failure to act.
PHA informal hearing procedures including when the PHA is required to offer a participant family the opportunity for an informal hearing, and how to request the hearing.
An explanation of the advantages of moving to an area that does not have a high concentration of low-income families.
If the PHA is located in a metropolitan area, the following additional information must be included in the briefing packet in order to receive full points under SEMAP Indicator 7, Expanding Housing Opportunities [24 CFR 985.3(g)]:
Maps showing areas with housing opportunities outside areas of poverty or minority concentration, both within its jurisdiction and its neighboring jurisdiction
Information about the characteristics of these areas including job opportunities, schools, transportation, and other services
An explanation of how portability works, including a list of portability contact persons for neighboring PHAs with names, addresses, and telephone numbers
Additional Items to Be Included in the Briefing Packet In addition to items required by the regulations, PHAs may wish to include supplemental materials to help explain the program to both participants and owners [HCV GB p. 8-7, Notice PIH 2017-12].
GFHA Policy The PHA will provide the following additional materials in the briefing packet:
The HUD pamphlet on lead-based paint entitled Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home
Information on how to fill out and file a housing discrimination complaint form
The form HUD-5380 domestic violence certification form and the form HUD5382 notice of occupancy rights, which contains information on VAWA protections for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking
“Is Fraud Worth It?” (form HUD-1141-OIG), which explains the types of actions a family must avoid and the penalties for program abuse
“What You Should Know about EIV,” a guide to the Enterprise Income Verification (EIV) system published by HUD as an attachment to Notice PIH 2017-12
5-I.C. FAMILY OBLIGATIONS Obligations of the family are described in the housing choice voucher (HCV) regulations and on the voucher itself. These obligations include responsibilities the family is required to fulfill, as well as prohibited actions. The PHA must inform families of these obligations during the oral briefing, and the same information must be included in the briefing packet. When the family’s unit is approved and the HAP contract is executed, the family must meet those obligations in order to continue participating in the program. Violation of any family obligation may result in termination of assistance, as described in Chapter 12.
Time Frames for Reporting Changes Required by Family Obligations GFHA Policy Unless otherwise noted below, when family obligations require the family to respond to a request or notify GFHA of a change, notifying GFHA of the request or change within 10 business days is considered prompt notice. When a family is required to provide notice to GFHA, the notice must be in writing.
Family Obligations [24 CFR 982.551] The family obligations of the voucher are listed as follows:
The family must supply any information that the PHA or HUD determines to be necessary, including submission of required evidence of citizenship or eligible immigration status.
The family must supply any information requested by the PHA or HUD for use in a regularly scheduled reexamination or interim reexamination of family income and composition.
The family must disclose and verify social security numbers and sign and submit consent forms for obtaining information.
Any information supplied by the family must be true and complete.
The family is responsible for any Housing Quality Standards (HQS) breach by the family caused by failure to pay tenant-provided utilities or appliances, or damages to the dwelling unit or premises beyond normal wear and tear caused by any member of the household or guest.
GFHA Policy Damages beyond normal wear and tear will be considered to be damages which could be assessed against the security deposit.
The family must allow the PHA to inspect the unit at reasonable times and after reasonable notice, as described in Chapter 8 of this plan.
The family must not commit any serious or repeated violation of the lease.
GFHA Policy GFHA will determine if a family has committed serious or repeated violations of the lease based on available evidence, including but not limited to, a court-ordered eviction or an owner’s notice to evict, police reports, and affidavits from the owner, neighbors, or other credible parties with direct knowledge.
Serious and repeated lease violations will include, but not be limited to, nonpayment of rent, disturbance of neighbors, destruction of property, living or housekeeping habits that cause damage to the unit or premises, and criminal activity. Generally, the criterion to be used will be whether or not the reason for the eviction was the fault of the tenant or guests. Any incidents of, or criminal activity related to, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking will not be construed as serious or repeated lease violations by the victim [24 CFR 5.2005(c)(1)].
The family must notify the PHA and the owner before moving out of the unit or terminating the lease.
GFHA Policy The family must comply with lease requirements regarding written notice to the owner. The family must provide written notice to GFHA at the same time the owner is notified.
The family must promptly give the PHA a copy of any owner eviction notice.
The family must use the assisted unit for residence by the family. The unit must be the family’s only residence.
The composition of the assisted family residing in the unit must be approved by the PHA. The family must promptly notify the PHA in writing of the birth, adoption, or court-awarded custody of a child. The family must request PHA approval to add any other family member as an occupant of the unit.
GFHA Policy The request to add a family member must be submitted in writing and approved prior to the person moving into the unit. GFHA will determine eligibility of the new member in accordance with the policies in Chapter 3.
The family must promptly notify the PHA in writing if any family member no longer lives in the unit.
If the PHA has given approval, a foster child or a live-in aide may reside in the unit. The PHA has the discretion to adopt reasonable policies concerning residency by a foster child or a live-in aide, and to define when PHA consent may be given or denied. For policies related to the request and approval/disapproval of foster children, foster adults, and live-in aides, see Chapter 3 (sections I.K and I.M), and Chapter 11 (section II.B).
The family must not sublease the unit, assign the lease, or transfer the unit.
GFHA Policy Subleasing includes receiving payment to cover rent and utility costs by a person living in the unit who is not listed as a family member.
The family must supply any information requested by the PHA to verify that the family is living in the unit or information related to family absence from the unit.
The family must promptly notify the PHA when the family is absent from the unit.
GFHA Policy Notice is required under this provision only when all family members will be absent from the unit for an extended period. An extended period is defined as any period greater than 30 calendar days. Written notice must be provided to GFHA at the start of the extended absence.
The family must pay utility bills and provide and maintain any appliances that the owner is not required to provide under the lease [Form HUD-52646, Voucher].
The family must not own or have any interest in the unit, (other than in a cooperative and owners of a manufactured home leasing a manufactured home space).
Family members must not commit fraud, bribery, or any other corrupt or criminal act in connection with the program. (See Chapter 14, Program Integrity for additional information).
Family members must not engage in drug-related criminal activity or violent criminal activity or other criminal activity that threatens the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of other residents and persons residing in the immediate vicinity of the premises. See Chapter 12 for HUD and PHA policies related to drug-related and violent criminal activity.
Members of the household must not engage in abuse of alcohol in a way that threatens the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of the other residents and persons residing in the immediate vicinity of the premises. See Chapter 12 for a discussion of HUD and PHA policies related to alcohol abuse.
An assisted family or member of the family must not receive HCV program assistance while receiving another housing subsidy, for the same unit or a different unit under any other federal, state or local housing assistance program.
A family must not receive HCV program assistance while residing in a unit owned by a parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, sister or brother of any member of the family, unless the PHA has determined (and has notified the owner and the family of such determination) that approving rental of the unit, notwithstanding such relationship, would provide reasonable accommodation for a family member who is a person with disabilities. [Form HUD-52646, Voucher]