The housing choice voucher program places the choice of housing in the hands of the individual family. The actual “voucher” is a document prepared by ARHA and given to the participants so that they may show this to prospective landlord/owners. The voucher shows that the family is a current participant in the HCV program as well as shows the monetary amount, called the “payment standard” that is being given for the bedroom size, for which the family qualifies.
Annually, HUD determines a “payment standard” for vouchers in the HCV program. The payment standard is the amount generally needed to rent a moderately priced unit in the local housing market. The more expensive a rental market is, the higher the payment standard. Payment standards after they are determined are then used to calculate the amount of housing assistance a family will receive. A family, which receives a housing voucher, may be able to select a unit with a rent that is below or above the payment standard. However, the amount of income the family will determine if the rental unit is found to be affordable.
The HCV program participant family must pay at least 30% of its monthly-adjusted gross income for rent and utilities, and if the unit rent is greater than the payment standard the family is required to pay the additional amount. However, whenever a family chooses a rental unit where the rent exceeds the payment standard, the family may not pay more than 40% of its adjusted monthly income for rent.
The rental unit selected by the family must meet an acceptable level of health and safety before ARHA will approve the unit. When the voucher holder finds a unit that it wishes to occupy and reaches an agreement with the landlord/owner over the lease terms, the family will submit a “Request for Tenancy Approval” form. This will be filled out by the prospective landlord/owner and submitted to ARHA. After the rent is calculated and found to be affordable, an ARHA inspector will be sent to the rental unit. The unit must pass this inspection before the family can move into the unit with ARHA subsidized rent.
Once ARHA approves an eligible family's housing unit, the family and the landlord/owner sign a lease and, at the same time, the landlord/owner and ARHA sign a housing assistance payments contract that runs for the same term as the lease. This means that everyone -- tenant, landlord/owner, and ARHA-- has obligations and responsibilities under the voucher program.
Tenant's Responsibilities: When a family selects a housing unit, and ARHA approves the unit and lease, the family signs a lease with the landlord/owner for at least one year. The tenant may be required to pay a security deposit to the landlord/owner. After the first year, the landlord/owner may initiate a new lease or allow the family to remain in the unit on a month-to-month lease.The family is expected to comply with the lease and the HCV program requirements, pay its share of rent on time, maintain the unit in good condition, and notify ARHA of any changes in income or family composition.
Landlord/owners’ Responsibilities: The role of the landlord/owner in the HCV program is to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing at a reasonable rent. The rented unit must pass the HCV program's housing quality standards (via inspection) and be maintained up to those standards as long as the owner receives housing assistance payment from ARHA. In addition, the landlord/owner is expected to provide the services agreed to as part of the lease signed with the tenant and the contract signed with ARHA.
ARHA’s Responsibilities: ARHA provides a family with the housing assistance that enables the family to seek out suitable housing. ARHA enters into a contract with the landlord/owner to provide housing assistance payments on behalf of the family. If the landlord/owner fails to meet their obligations under the lease, ARHA has the right to terminate the housing assistance payments. ARHA must reexamine the family's income and composition at least annually and must inspect each unit at least annually to ensure that it meets minimum housing quality standards.
A family's housing needs change over time with changes in family size, job locations, and for other reasons. The housing choice voucher program is designed to allow families to move without the loss of housing assistance. Moves, called “transfers” are permissible as long as the family notifies ARHA ahead of time, terminates its existing lease within the lease provisions, and finds acceptable alternate housing.
Under the HCV program, voucher-holders may choose a unit anywhere in the United States where a housing voucher is accepted. This is called “Portability”. To be eligible for this, the family must live in ARHA’s jurisdiction, the City of Alexandria, for the first twelve months of assistance. Exceptions to this are made on a case-by-case basis. Moving a voucher from one jurisdiction to another is called, “Porting”. A family that wishes to move to another Housing Authority's jurisdiction must consult with the Housing Authority that currently administers its housing assistance to verify the procedures for moving.