Summary

  • What is the Housing Choice Voucher (voucher) program?
    The voucher program is one of the federal government’s major housing programs helping low-income families find affordable housing.  Eligible households use vouchers to help pay the rent on privately owned homes of their choosing.

    How do vouchers work?
    A family receiving a voucher must pay at least 30 percent of its monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities.  If the unit rent is greater than the payment standard for the area, as determined by the state or local public housing authority (PHA), the family is required to pay the additional amount. 

    Vouchers are used primarily for tenant-based rental assistance; however, some vouchers may be used to help home buyers pay closing costs or mortgage payments.  Program administrators can also dedicate up to 20 percent of their vouchers for eligible families occupying pre-selected apartments, which is known as project-basing the vouchers.  Program administrators may not provide project-based vouchers to more than 25 percent of the apartments in an individual multifamily housing development.

    Whom do vouchers serve?
    Federal rules require that at least 75 percent of households newly admitted to the voucher program be extremely low-income, with incomes of 30 percent of the area median income (AMI) or less.  The other 25 percent or less of newly admitted households must be low-income, with incomes of up to 80 percent of AMI.

    The voucher program assists over 2 million families.  Approximately 40 percent of these families have a head of household who is disabled and almost 20 percent have an elderly head of household. Just over 50 percent of the households are families with children. In 2011, 78 percent of families assisted had extremely low-incomes and another 18 percent had very low-incomes, an income of between 31 and 50 percent of AMI.

    Who administers the voucher program?
    With oversight from HUD, approximately 2,350 state and local public housing authorities (PHAs), including state Housing Finance Agencies (HFAs), administer voucher programs.  PHAs solicit applications, determine recipient eligibility, establish allowable rent levels, review recipients’ income, and determine whether homes for rent comply with the voucher program’s housing quality standards.

    How can voucher program administrative burdens be reduced?
    Congress can reduce the program’s administrative burden by passing Section 8 reform legislation.  Approving reform legislation that includes provisions to streamline inspections, rent calculations, and income determinations would provide for more efficient administration of the voucher program.

    What is the current funding level for vouchers?
    Voucher renewals were funded at $17.2 billion in FY 2012 and administrative costs were funded at $1.35 billion.  The President’s FY 2013 Budget proposed flat-funding voucher renewals and increasing administrative costs to $1.58 billion.  The House-passed FY 2013 HUD funding bill would provide $17.2 billion for voucher renewals and $1.58 billion for administrative costs.  The Senate Appropriations Committee-passed FY 2013 HUD funding bill would provide $17.5 billion for voucher renewals and $1.58 billion for administrative costs.  The program is currently being funded at FY 2012 levels though a continuing resolution, which expires on March 27.
     

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