DEFINITION of 'Housing Choice Voucher Program'

The Housing Choice Voucher Program helps families with very low incomes rent or buy safe housing. Local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) issue housing choice vouchers to qualified families who may choose to use their vouchers for dwellings including single-family houses, townhomes or apartments. They are not limited to subsidized housing projects.

BREAKING DOWN 'Housing Choice Voucher Program'

Once a family chooses a home, the landlord must agree to participate in the housing voucher program. The landlord receives a housing subsidy directly from the local PHA, which receives funding from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The tenants pay the difference to the landlord.

Families qualify for the vouchers based on income and family size compared to the median family income for the region. This information is available from the local PHA office. Usually an eligible family's income cannot exceed 50% of the region's median family income.  

Eligible applicants must be U.S. citizens or fall within certain categories of non-citizens who hold eligible immigrant status. Applicants must share details of family income, assets and family composition. Eligible applicants are placed on a waiting list and contacted by their local PHA when their names are reached. Long waiting times are not unusual.

Local PHAs may create additional selection criteria to move families up a waiting list. Homelessness, substandard housing conditions or paying more than 50% of household income for rent are common reasons a family may be given preference.

PHAs calculate housing-payment standards to reflect the average rent of a moderately priced home. Once families select a home, they will pay 30% of their adjusted monthly income toward the rent. If the rent is higher than the housing-payment standard amount, they must pay the difference.




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