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Housing Choice Voucher Program

Through tenant-based vouchers, HUD provides rental subsidies for standard-quality units that are chosen by the tenant in the private market.

Nature of Program: The following is a short list of key features:

Targeting and Eligibility. At least 75 percent of the families admitted to a public housing agency's (PHA) Housing Choice Voucher program during the PHA's fiscal year must have income at or below 30 percent of the area median income.  In general, eligibility for vouchers is limited to:

  • Very low-income families;
  • Low-income families previously assisted under the public housing, Section 23, or Section 8 project-based housing programs;
  • Low-income families that are non-purchasing tenants of certain homeownership programs;
  • Low-income tenants displaced from certain Section 221 and 236 projects; or
  • Low-income families that meet PHA-specified eligibility criteria (see Section 8(o)(4)).

Payment Standards. The subsidy amount is based on a payment standard set by the PHA between 90 percent and 110 percent of the fair market rent (FMR). HUD may approve payment standards lower than 90 percent of FMR and payment standards higher than 110 percent of FMR, and may require PHA payment standard changes because of incidence of high rent burdens (see Sections 8(o)(1)(B), (D), and (E)).

Tenant Rent. A family renting a unit at or below the payment standard pays the highest of 30 percent of monthly adjusted income, 10 percent of monthly income, the welfare rent, or the PHA's minimum rent.  A family renting a unit above the payment standard pays the highest of 30 percent of monthly adjusted income, 10 percent of monthly income, the welfare rent, or the PHA's minimum rent, plus the amount of rent above the payment standard (see Sections 8(o)(2)(A) and 8(o)(2)(B)).  The rent to the owner in the voucher program must always be reasonable in relation to the rent charged for comparable unassisted units.

Maximum Initial Rent Burden. A family must not pay more than 40 percent of adjusted monthly income for rent when the family first receives voucher assistance in a particular unit.  (This maximum rent burden requirement is not applicable at reexamination if the family stays in place) (see Section 8(o)(3)).

The voucher program also has provisions that outline tenant and owner responsibility. In addition to the traditional tenant screening by owners, PHAs are permitted to screen applicants for assistance. In addition, PHAs can disapprove owners who refuse to evict tenants for drug-related or violent criminal activity, or for activity that threatens the health, safety or right of peaceful enjoyment of the premises of tenants, PHA employees or owner employees, or the residences of neighbors (see Section 8(o)(6)(C)). Finally, "Violent criminal activity on or near the premises" is also a statutory ground for termination of tenancy (see Section 8(o)(7)(D)).

Project-Based Voucher Assistance. A PHA that runs a tenant-based housing choice voucher program may choose to use up to 20 percent of its voucher assistance to implement a project-based voucher program.  For more information, please see the Project-Based Voucher Program section.

Homeownership Voucher Assistance. A PHA may choose to use tenant-based housing choice voucher assistance to help eligible first-time homeowners with their monthly homeownership expenses. For more information, please see the Homeownership Voucher Assistance section.

Enhanced Voucher Assistance. These are special vouchers available to tenants who would otherwise be adversely affected by HUD program decisions. Enhanced vouchers are generally issued to provide continued assistance for a family at the termination of project-based rental assistance. If the family stays in the same project, the voucher payment standard covers the full market rent. Enhanced vouchers have several special requirements, but in all other respects are subject to rules of the tenant-based voucher program. Differences include a special statutory minimum rent requirement and a special payment standard, applicable to a family receiving enhanced voucher assistance that elects to stay in the same unit, which can sometimes result in a PHA approving a unit that would otherwise be unaffordable to a family with regular tenant-based assistance. If the family moves, all normal voucher rules apply.

Low-income residents of units in multifamily projects (5+ units) covered in whole or in part by a contract of project-based assistance are, in certain situations, eligible for enhanced voucher assistance. These situations include owner opt-outs from specified programs.

Applicant Eligibility: Public housing agencies.

Legal Authority: Section 8 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937 (42 U.S.C. 1437f); Section 8(o) for vouchers (tenant-based and project-based) and Section 8(t) for enhanced vouchers. Regulations are at 24 CFR part 5 (certain cross-cutting requirements); 24 CFR part 982 (Tenant-based Housing Choice Voucher Program); 24 CFR part 983 (Project-Based Voucher Program); 24 CFR part 984 (Section 8 Family Self-Sufficiency Program); and 24 CFR part 985 (Section 8 Management Assessment Program (SEMAP)).

Administering Office: Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing,
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington, DC 20410-5000.

Information Sources: Local public housing agencies or HUD field offices. On the Web

Current Status: Active.