Preparing and Motivating Families to Search
Searching for housing, particularly in unfamiliar neighborhoods
and in tight rental markets, can be a daunting task. As a result,
PHAs need to keep families enthusiastic about the opportunities
provided by the program. There are several things PHAs can do to
help motivate families:
- Promote the real advantages and opportunities available through
the WtW voucher program.
- Focus on and reward small successes, for example, deciding where
to look, dealing with bad credit, setting up a realistic budget,
and making arrangements for transportation and childcare.
- Address fears and concerns directly by discussing them with
- Strengthen the family's sense of self-reliance by assuring them
that they have the skills and knowledge to succeed, and that they
can help themselves by assuming responsibility for the search
process and for fulfilling WtW family obligations.
- Provide follow-up and support to solve problems encountered
during the search process.
Providing Families with the Tools They Need to Search
Before actually visiting units, program participants should have
a clear understanding of the WtW program, its requirements, and
the PHA's expectations. The family should also think through what
they are looking for in a dwelling unit, as well as the surrounding
Before searching, families should have a good sense of the following:
- Size of the unit needed.
- Type of unit that best meets their needs and preferences.
- Family budget, including what the family can afford to pay in
rent and utilities, and how choices in location may influence
the family budget.
- Transportation needs.
- School needs.
- Child care needs.
- Shopping needs.
- Medical needs.
- Support services.
- Employment prospects.
- Recreation needs.
- Personal preferences regarding housing choice, lifestyle, and
- Which neighborhoods are most likely to meet their needs and
to increase their housing, employment, and educational opportunities.
PHAs can provide families with concrete information about particular
communities. The information should highlight the community's most
important features - affordable rental housing, proximity to employment
centers, quality of schools, availability and quality of public
transportation, child care, supportive services, and medical and
health services. Maps can help families see, for example, the location
of schools, churches, and employment centers. PHAs should also refer
families to partners or other supportive service providers if the
family needs to deal with a particular issue before it can succeed
in looking for housing.
Most importantly, PHAs should emphasize the need to start saving
for the move immediately. Families will probably have to pay a security
deposit, although some landlords may be willing to negotiate payment
schedules with families. Other up-front expenses can include cost
of moving household goods; costs to cover any damage or cleaning
charges in excess of the security deposit in the existing unit;
and deposits for utility, cable, and phone hookups. Families moving
to higher-income areas (where employment opportunities may be greater)
will often face higher security deposits than in high poverty areas
and may also experience higher moving costs if distances are greater.