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What is the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
The Housing Choice Voucher Program is the federal government's major program for assisting 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, mobile homes, townhouses and apartments.

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 program.

A participating family that is issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of their choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program. 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 participant 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 participant may use the voucher to purchase a modest home.

Housing Choice Vouchers - How do They Function? 
The housing choice voucher program places the choice of housing in the hands of the participant.  A 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 participant 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 is reasonable.

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 participant will receive.

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Calculation of Subsidy and Family Share
The participant's share is calculated by subtracting the amount of the housing assistance payment from the gross rent.

Please Note: In addition to the monthly rent payment, tenants are responsible for the security deposit for utilities (if applicable).

Determine Adjusted Income
After determining the total annual income for the household, the PHA makes any necessary adjustments to the annual income in accordance with HUD regulations. The PHA determines final eligibility. 

Rent Reasonableness
At the time of inspection, the caseworker will evaluate the rent reasonableness of the housing unit. The proposed rent will be compared to the rent for other units on the market of similar size, features, and amenities.

Although there are no HUD "ceilings" on the rents charged in the Voucher Program, the rents must still be reasonable and comparable to those charged for similar unassisted units. The PHA bases the determination of reasonableness and comparability on the rental market information.

PHA Disapproval of Tenancy
If the participant chooses a unit with gross rent greater than the payment standard and the family share exceeds 40% of their monthly adjusted income, the PHA is NOT PERMITTED to approve tenancy.

Assignment of Bedroom Sizes (Subsidy Standards)
The Jefferson County Housing Authority will issue a voucher for particular bedroom size - the bedroom size is a factor in determining the family's level of assistance. The following guidelines will determine each family's unit size without overcrowding or over-housing:

0 Bedrooms - Min. 1 Person, Max 1 Person
1 Bedroom - Min 1 Person, Max 2 Persons
2 Bedrooms - Min 2 Person, Max 4 Persons
3 Bedrooms - Min 3 Person, Max 6 Persons
4 Bedrooms - Min 4 Person, Max 8 Persons

These standards are based on the assumption that each bedroom will accommodate no more than two (2) persons. Two adults will share a bedroom unless related by blood.

In determining bedroom size, the Jefferson County Housing Authority will include the presence of children to be born to a pregnant woman, children who are in the process of being adopted, children whose custody is being obtained, children who are temporarily away at school or temporarily in foster-care.

Bedroom size will also be determined using the following guidelines:
Children of the same sex will share a bedroom.

  1. Children of the opposite sex, both under the age of 5 will share a bedroom
  2. Adults and children will not be required to share a bedroom
  3. Foster adults and children will not be required to share a bedroom with family members
  4. Live-in aides will get a separate bedroom. 

The Jefferson County Housing Authority will grant exceptions to normal occupancy standards when a family requests a larger size than the guidelines allow and documents a medical reason why the larger size is necessary.

The family unit size will be determined by the Jefferson County Housing Authority in accordance with the above guidelines and will determine the maximum rent subsidy for the family; however, the family selects a smaller unit, the payment standard for the smaller size will be used to calculate the subsidy. If the family selects a larger size, the payment standard for the family unit size will determine the maximum subsidy.

Changes in Lease or Rent
If the participant and owner agree to any changes in the lease, all changes must be in writing, and the owner must immediately give the Jefferson County Housing Authority a copy of the changes.

Owners must notify the Jefferson County Housing Authority of any changes in the amount of the rent at least sixty (60) calendar days before the changes go into effect. Any such changes are subject to the Jefferson County Housing Authority determining them to be reasonable.

Assistance shall not be continued unless the Jefferson County Housing Authority has approved a new tenancy in accordance with program requirements and has executed a new HAP contract with the owner if any of the following changes are made:

  1. Requirements governing participant or owner responsibilities for utilities or appliances;
  2. In the lease terms reducing the length of the lease;
  3. If the participant moves to a new unit, even if the unit is in the same building or complex.

The approval of the Jefferson County Housing Authority is not required for changes other than those specified in A, B, or C above.

Utility Allowances
To keep housing affordable for lower-income households, the rent amount includes shelter and the costs for reasonable amounts of utilities. The amount that a PHA determines is necessary to cover the participant's reasonable utility costs is the utility allowance.

Such allowances are estimates of the expenses associated with different types of utilities.  The utilities for which allowances may be provided include electricity, natural gas, water and sewage service, as well as garbage collection and appliances.

Utility allowances for a participant's household depends on the utilities and the unit and/or household size. 

Allowances Are Calculated for Categories of Units
Utility consumption tends to vary according to certain characteristics of units, such as building construction type and size. To account for such factors, PHAs group dwelling units with similar characteristics into categories and calculate distinct allowances for each category. Each category (group) of dwelling units is called an allowance category.

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Inspection Policies and Housing Quality Standards
The Jefferson County Housing Authority will inspect all units to ensure that they meet Housing Quality Standards (HQS). No unit will be initially placed on the Section 8 Program unless the HQS is met. Units will be inspected at least biennially, and at other times as needed, to determine if the units meet HQS.

The Jefferson County Housing Authority must be allowed to inspect the dwelling unit at reasonable times with reasonable notice. The participant and owner will be notified of the inspection appointment by mail. If the participant cannot be at home for the scheduled inspection appointment, the participant must call and reschedule the inspection or make arrangements to enable the Housing Authority to enter the unit and complete the inspection.

If the participant misses the scheduled inspection and fails to reschedule the inspection, the Jefferson County Housing Authority will only schedule one more inspection. If the participant misses two inspections, the Jefferson County Housing Authority will consider the participant to have violated a Family Obligation and their assistance will be terminated.

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Roles of the participant, the landlord, the housing authority and HUD 
Once a PHA approves an eligible participant's housing unit, the participant 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 - participant, landlord and PHA -- has obligations and responsibilities under the voucher program.

Participant's Obligations: When a participant selects a housing unit, and the PHA approves the unit and lease, the participant signs a lease with the landlord for at least one year. The participant may be required to pay a security deposit to the landlord.

When the participant is settled in a new home, the participant is expected to comply with the lease and the program requirements, pay their 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 participant with the housing assistance that enables him/her to seek out suitable housing and the PHA enters into a contract with the landlord to provide housing assistance payments on behalf of the participant.  The PHA must reexamine the family's income and composition at least annually and inspect each unit to ensure that it meets minimum housing quality standards.

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 participants.  HUD also pays the PHA a fee for the costs of administering the program.  HUD monitors PHA administration of the program to ensure program rules are properly followed.