Section 8 Voucher Program

Section 8 Voucher Program

The Section 8 voucher program is funded by the federal government through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). With a Section 8 voucher the applicant can live anywhere in the jurisdiction of the local Section 8 Housing Authority.

Two Agencies in Saint Clair County, IL

In this county I am aware of two government entities that administer the program. The “Saint Clair County Housing Authority” (SCCHA) and the “East Saint Louis Housing Authority” (ESLHA). A short time ago the ESLHA lost its authority to administer the program.  Click HERE for more information. All participants in the ESLHA program, both landlords and participants, were transferred into the SCCHA with no loss of benefits. Currently the ESLHA being considered for reinstatement into the program.

If the participant moves, they can take the voucher with them. After the first year, you can use the voucher anywhere in the country.

Section 8 Housing Voucher

For a listing of authorities and agencies which administer the Section 8 housing choice program, look for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program in your area.

The housing authority or regional nonprofit where the participant applies determines whether they are eligible for a voucher. The administrator calculates how much the participant’s share of the rent is. This can be as low as 10% or as high as 100% of the rent depending on the participant’s income. In our experience it has normally been between 30 to 50 percent of the monthly rent for the unit.

While a housing agency is required to do an adult criminal record check, in general, landlords who take Section 8 are responsible for screening and selecting their own tenants. For more information about tenant screening see “The Ins and Outs of Tenant Screening” by George N. Skidis, Jr.

When the participant first receives a Section 8 voucher, they have a certain period of time to find a house or apartment. This is called the search period. They must enter into a lease with a participating landlord before the search period ends or the voucher expires.

Search Time

All housing authorities and regional nonprofits must give the participant a minimum of at least 60 days’ search time. It can go higher depending upon the local authorities’ internal guidelines.

Each housing authority and regional nonprofit also sets its own policy about how long and how often it will extend this 60-day search period and for what reasons. The housing agency may also determine whether the search period should be frozen or suspended.

Good reasons for extending or freezing the participant’s search period are that they have been hospitalized or are otherwise unable to engage in housing search for reasons beyond their control. Additionally they may have submitted a request for an apartment to be approved and are waiting for a final decision.

Housing Packet

Each voucher recipient receives a packet with which they can go and search for a home. The packet contains a lease and other items the landlord must consider before accepting or rejecting a participant.

A landlord who is willing to rent to a household with a Section 8 voucher holder submits a form provided in the packet sometimes called a “Request for Tenancy Approval to the local authority. This form must state the total rent to owner for the apartment and which utilities will be paid for by the landlord and by the tenant.

Reasonable Rent

The rent must be reasonable, which means that it must be similar to the rents charged for unassisted private market apartments of similar size, amenities, and condition in the premises and in the same community or environs.

In addition to the requirement that the rent to owner be reasonable, the housing authority must determine that the family’s portion of the rent will not exceed 40% of income at lease signing. This means that the difference between the housing authority’s payment standard (maximum subsidy payment) for the unit and the tenant’s portion of the housing costs (rent paid to the owner plus any tenant-paid utilities as determined by the housing authority’s utility allowances) cannot be more than 10% of household income.

Most housing authorities set their payment standards between 90% and 110% of the Fair Market Rents published by HUD each year. A higher payment standard may be established as a reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities, which can allow them to rent more expensive units if needed.

The Lease

Once a request for tenancy approval is submitted, the housing authority then approves or rejects this rent, inspects the apartment to make sure that it is habitable, and reviews the lease.

Once an apartment is approved the landlord and tenant sign a lease provided by the local housing authority. The landlord may also present their lease for the participant’s signature, but the Section 8 lease overides it when they are in conflict. Usually a lease has a term of one year. During this first year, the landlord can terminate the  lease only for good cause. This includes violation of the lease and non payment of rent for the participant’s portion.

Moving Out

For the participant to move out in the first year of the lease they must get the landlord’s agreement to break the lease. They may break the lease if someone in the household is a victim of domestic violence or stalking and they need to relocate in order to be safe. They may also break the lease if the landlord fails to correct code violations cited by a city or state agency. Depending upon local law they may also have the right to break the lease with reasonable notice.

The landlord can choose not to renew the  lease after the first year without having to state a good cause. The participant may claim that the landlord’s failure to renew is really because they are discriminating against the participant because they have a Section 8 voucher. If this happens the landlord may have to prove that the tenant violated the lease or that the landlord has a business reason for not renewing it.  For more on Federal HJousing Discrimination click HERE.

In addition to having a lease and business relationship with the tenant, the landlord also has a business relationship with the local authority which administers the Section 8 voucher program. This means you will notices of inspection and demands from the program administrator as well as the resident. The administrator can withhold the monthly voucher payment until the landlord is in compliance.

Hostile Termination

The housing agency can terminate either the landlord or the resident from the Section 8 program if it believes that either of them may have violated any Section 8 program rules. For the landlord this means not maintain the property, trying to work out side deals or other actions in addition to the rent. For the resident this includes not properly reporting income, family composition (moving in a spouse or special friend) or engaging in fraud. If this happens the terminated party can request an informal hearing to show why they should not be dropped from the program.

Summary

In summary the Section 8 Voucher program places extra duties upon the landlord but is worth it. Most of our residents have stayed over 10 years. One just reached their 20th anniversary last June. It has its challenges, but the rewards can be great.

To learn more about the Section 8 Voucher  Program come to our meeting on Thursday November 9th, 2017 at the Wood River VFW and here the director of the Madison County Housing authority Amy Parkinson discuss the Section 8 Housing Program.

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