What are housing choice vouchers?
The housing choice voucher program is the federal government's major
program for assisting 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, 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 choice vouchers are administered locally by public housing
agencies(PHAs). The PHAs receive federal funds from the U.S. Department
of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher
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 health and
safety, as determined by the PHA.
A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the PHA 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. Under certain circumstances, if authorized by the
PHA, a family may use its voucher to purchase a modest home.
Am I eligible?
Eligibility for a housing voucher is determined by the PHA 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. In general, the family's income may
not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan
area in which the family chooses to live. By law, a PHA must provide
75 percent of its voucher to applicants whose incomes do not exceed
30 percent of the area median income. Median income levels are published
by HUD and vary by location. The PHA serving your community can
provide you with the income limits for your area and family size.
During the application process, the PHA will collect information
on family income, assets, and family composition. The PHA will verify
this information with other local agencies, your employer and bank,
and will use the information to determine program eligibility and
the amount of the housing assistance payment
If the PHA determines that your family is eligible, the PHA will
put your name on a waiting list, unless it is able to assist you
immediately. Once your name is reached on the waiting list, the
PHA will contact you and issue to you a housing voucher.
How do I apply?
If you are interested in applying for a voucher, contact the local PHA.
For further assistance, please contact the HUD Office nearest to you.
Local preferences and waiting list - what are
they and how do they affect me?
Since the demand for housing assistance often exceeds the limited
resources available to HUD and the local housing agencies, long
waiting periods are common. In fact, a PHA may close its waiting
list when it has more families on the list than can be assisted
in the near future.
PHAs may establish local preferences for selecting applicants from
its waiting list. For example, PHAs may give a preference to a family
who is (1) homeless or living in substandard housing, (2) paying
more than 50% of its income for rent, or (3) involuntarily displaced.
Families who qualify for any such local preferences move ahead of
other families on the list who do not qualify for any preference.
Each PHA has the discretion to establish local preferences to reflect
the housing needs and priorities of its particular community.
Housing 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
is selected by the PHA to participate is encouraged to consider
several housing choices to secure the best housing for the family
needs. A housing voucher holder is advised of the unit size for
which it is eligible based on family size and composition.
The housing unit selected by the family must meet an acceptable
level of health and safety before the PHA can approve the unit.
When the voucher holder finds a unit that it wishes to occupy and
reaches an agreement with the landlord over the lease terms, the
PHA must inspect the dwelling and determine that the rent requested
The PHA determines a payment standard that is the amount generally
needed to rent a moderately-priced dwelling unit in the local housing
market and that is used to calculate the amount of housing assistance
a family will receive. However the payment standard does not limit
and does not affect the amount of rent a landlord may charge or
the family may pay. A family which receives a housing voucher can
select a unit with a rent that is below or above the payment standard.
The housing voucher family must pay 30% of its monthly adjusted
gross income for rent and utilities, and if the unit rent is greater
than the payment standard the family is required to pay the additional
amount. By law, whenever a family moves to a new unit where the
rent exceeds the payment standard, the family may not pay more than
40 percent of its adjusted monthly income for rent.
The rent subsidy
The PHA calculates the maximum amount of housing assistance allowable.
The maximum housing assistance is generally the lesser of the payment
standard minus 30% of the family's monthly adjusted income or the
gross rent for the unit minus 30% of monthly adjusted income
Can I move and continue to receive housing choice
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
housing assistance. Moves are permissible as long as the family
notifies the PHA ahead of time, terminates its existing lease within
the lease 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 in the jurisdiction
of the PHA issuing the voucher when the family applied for assistance.
Those new voucher-holders not living in the jurisdiction of the
PHA at the time the family applied for housing assistance must initially
lease a unit within that jurisdiction for the first twelve months
of assistance. A family that wishes to move to another PHA's jurisdiction
must consult with the PHA that currently administers its housing
assistance to verify the procedures for moving.
Roles - the tenant, the landlord, the housing
agency and HUD
Once a PHA approves an eligible family's housing unit, the family
and the landlord sign a lease and, at the same time, the landlord
and the PHA sign a housing assistance payments contract that runs
for the same term as the lease. This means that everyone -- tenant,
landlord and PHA -- has obligations and responsibilities under the
Tenant's Obligations: When a family selects a housing unit,
and the PHA 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 PHA of any changes in income or family composition.
Landlord's Obligations: 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 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 PHA.
Housing Authority's Obligations: The PHA administers the
voucher program locally. The PHA provides a family with the housing
assistance that enables the family to seek out suitable housing
and the PHA enters into a contract with the landlord to provide
housing assistance payments on behalf of the family. If the landlord
fails to meet the owner's obligations under the lease, the PHA has
the right to terminate assistance payments. The PHA must reexamine
the family's income and composition at least annually and must inspect
each unit at least annually to ensure that it meets minimum housing
HUD's Role: To cover the cost of the program, HUD provides
funds to allow PHAs to make housing assistance payments on behalf
of the families. HUD also pays the PHA a fee for the costs of administering
the program. When additional funds become available to assist new
families, HUD invites PHAs to submit applications for funds for
additional housing vouchers. Applications are then reviewed and
funds awarded to the selected PHAs on a competitive basis. HUD monitors
PHA administration of the program to ensure program rules are properly
Additional Information and other subsidy programs
For additional information about the voucher program, contact either
PHA serving your community or the Office of Public Housing within
your local HUD office.
There may be a long wait for assistance under the housing voucher
program. If the PHA also administers the public housing program,applicants
for the housing choice voucher program may also ask to be placed
on the waiting list for the public housing program. HUD also administers
other subsidized programs and you may obtain a list of programs
in your area from the Office of Housing at your local HUD office.
What regulations cover this program?
Regulations are found in 24
CFR Part 982.