What is a Housing Choice Voucher?
A Housing Choice Voucher, historically called “Section 8,” is a rental subsidy for low- income households in the United States. The Housing Choice Voucher Program is the largest federal subsidized housing program for low -income households in the US. State and regional authorities operate 2,500 voucher programs around the country. In our city, HANO operates the Housing Choice Voucher program.
The Housing Choice Voucher Program is not an entitlement program, and only about a quarter of families who qualify for the program actually receive a voucher. There are typically long wait lists for families who want to receive vouchers.
Families who receive vouchers search for housing on the private rental market. The voucher acts as a coupon, so families can find housing affordable to them, and they only pay a portion of the rent. Families only pay up to 40% of their income towards their housing costs (both rent and utilities). If the family has no income, the voucher will typically cover the whole cost of the rent and provide the family with a subsidy to pay utilities. Vouchers are subject to regional rental ceilings where the housing authority can pay only up to a certain amount for a unit based on the neighborhood, bedroom size, and amenities included in the unit.
As a property owner, I have never worked with a tenant with a housing choice voucher before. What should I expect in the rental process?
Renting your property to a family with a voucher follows a very similar process as leasing to a family without a voucher. It includes a few extra steps to make sure you and the tenant will make a successful match.
We encourage property owners to screen voucher families the same way they would with any other applicant. You will want to consider, however, that the voucher will count towards a large portion of the rent (if not all of it), so many property owners have different, more flexible income criteria for voucher holders.
After an applicant goes through your screening criteria, you turn in a packet of information to the Housing Authority called a Request for Tenancy Approval. This proves that you are the owner of the unit and lists the amenities included in the unit.
Once the Housing Authority has the Request for Tenancy Approval, a Housing Authority representative will inspect the unit to make sure that it meets Housing Quality Standards. These standards were created to ensure that our federal tax dollars are not used to house families in units that are subpar and unsafe.
Lastly, after the unit passes inspection, you and the Housing Authority must agree on the rent amount. The Housing Authority will look at comparable units in the area (based on amenities, size, and type of unit) to make sure that the rental amount requested is a fair price based on the market.
After the unit passes inspection and you and HANO have agreed upon the rent, the tenant can sign the lease and pay their deposit. You sign an agreement with the Housing Authority called the Housing Assistance Payment Contact (HAP for short). The contract shows that you have agreed to receive the rental payment from the Housing Authority.
Each month, you receive the rent from the Housing Authority and the tenant. If the tenant’s income goes down, the Housing Authority will pay a larger portion of the rent so that the unit is always affordable for the tenant. If, however, you request a rent increase for subsequent years of tenancy, the tenant’s portion may increase regardless of whether their income has changed. Inspections are typically conducted annually, so if the tenant wants to live in your unit another year, the Housing Authority will come to inspect the unit prior to the lease anniversary date. HANO does have an option for units that stay in compliance for multiple years to transition to a biennial inspection schedule.
How much is the voucher worth?
Housing Authorities are subject to limits set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which sets regional limits on how much the housing authority can pay based on the number of bedrooms the family qualifies for. The limit is called the Payment Standard, and in the city the Payment Standard is dependent on the zip code of the unit.
Use the Address Locator Tool to see if the property qualifies for the Community Choice Demonstration. The search tool will also provide the user with the estimated rental price limit for that neighborhood. The numbers provide an estimated rental price a Housing Choice Voucher family with no income can afford.
Price limit by location for families with vouchers in 2023:
|Voucher Bedroom Size|
|All other zip codes||$975||$1,105||$1,400||$1,625||$1,870||$2,160|
There are two important factors to keep in mind. First, families with income may choose to look above the established price limit because they can pay a larger portion of the rent. Second, although the price limit helps families figure out how much they can afford based on the location, the rental price agreed upon between the Housing Authority and the property owner must be similar in price to other comparable units in the area fair market rate. The Housing Authority will look at comparable units in the area (based on amenities, size, and type of unit) to make sure that the rental amount the property owner requests is a fair price based on the market.
What are the Opportunity Areas? Where are they?
Opportunity Areas are neighborhoods or communities in Orleans Parish where children and families are expected to have the best opportunity to thrive. Researchers and local experts developed the list of Opportunity Areas based on data on school quality, long-term economic outcomes for children, poverty rates and other social and economic neighborhood criteria. Opportunity Areas are defined based on census tracts and block groups, which are area designations developed by the U.S. Census Bureau.
You can look at the Opportunity Areas using this link.
I have a voucher and I am interested in the program. Who should I contact?
Contact Germika Stewart at (504) 670-3257 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about the program and see if you qualify.
Who is eligible for the Community Choice Demonstration?
Your family might be eligible if:
A small number of families from the current HANO Housing Choice Voucher waitlist are also being invited to participate through invitation only.
The Community Choice Demonstration helps families with Housing Choice Vouchers find homes in Opportunity Areas in Orleans parish. If you think you are eligible to participate in the Community Choice Demonstration, you may want to think about the following:
I may have a unit in an Opportunity Area. How can I check?
Use the Address Locator Tool to look up if a property is in an Opportunity Area and qualifies for benefits as part of the Community Choice Demonstration. The search tool will also provide the user with an estimated rent range in that area. The numbers provide an estimated range of rents a Housing Choice Voucher family with no income can afford.