The Housing Choice Voucher program is one of the largest federally funded programs that assist families or individuals by subsidizing their housing in the private market. The program allows very low income, disabled and elderly families or individuals to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing while maintaining their rental and utility costs at 30% of their gross monthly income.
The program allows the participating family or individual the opportunity to select the unit they want to live in whether that unit is an apartment, a duplex or a single-family house, as long as the landlord is willing to accept the voucher and the unit passes the Housing Quality Standards. The Housing Authority of Travis County administers Housing Choice Vouchers for families who may select units in Austin and the surrounding areas within and near Travis County.
In order to qualify for the Housing Choice Voucher program, the family must apply to the program when the waiting list is opened, wait for their turn to come up on the waiting list, meet income and other program guidelines and locate suitable housing where the owner will agree to participate in the program. The participating family is responsible for paying their portion of the rent and the Housing Authority pays the difference between the rent on the lease and the family’s portion.
There are several programs administered by the Housing Authority of Travis County and available to participating voucher families to assist them to outgrow the need for subsidized rent. The Family Self-Sufficiency program is available to qualifying Housing Choice Voucher participants. The Lease-Purchase program is available to non-voucher families and families not being assisted by any housing authority. The Lease-Purchase program assists qualifying families to transition into home-ownership.
The Housing Choice Voucher Process
In order to qualify for a voucher with the Housing Authority of Travis County, a family must fill out an application to the program when the Section 8 waiting list is open and accepting applications. Once the family has filled out an application to be placed on the waiting list the Housing Authority maintains the waiting list in such a manner that families are offered vouchers in the general order in which they filled out their waiting list applications and respond to contacts.
Families with a place on the waiting list have an obligation to ensure that their addresses and other contact information remain current by informing the Housing Authority of any changes of address and/or phone numbers. The Section 8 waiting list is verified on an approximately annual basis by contacting the families on the waiting list, usually by mailing an application update form which must be returned within a certain time frame. If an applicant family is moving around frequently, the family must be sure to update their contact information with each move or might be best served by providing contact information for someone who is not moving around as much and will be certain to contact the family right away.
Once a family reaches the top of the waiting list, the family is notified and an appointment is scheduled. If the family does not respond to the notice they are removed from the waiting list. At the eligibility interview the family will be required to provide proof of identity, income, citizenship status. The family members must all pass a criminal background check and cannot owe any outstanding debts to any Housing Authority.
Once the family finishes the eligibility process, the Housing Authority issues them a Housing Choice Voucher. The family then has sixty days to find a suitable rental unit where the owner is willing to participate in the program and the unit passes the Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspection. For some families, the unit that they are currently living may qualify so that the family may not have to move. The family and the landlord sign a lease after the unit passes the HQS inspection and the Housing Authority calculates the family’s portion of the rent. The Housing Authority will then pay the subsidized portion of the rent directly to the landlord and the family also pays their portion of the rent directly to the landlord. The HAP contract is between the Housing Authority and the landlord. The lease is between the tenant and the landlord; however, the lease must not conflict with the lease addendum or the HAP Contract.