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Library Index » Social Issues & Debate Topics » Federal Government Aid for the Homeless - A Timeline Of Government Involvement, The Mckinney-vento Homelessassistance Act, Federally Subsidized Housing, Public Housing

Federal Government Aid for the Homeless - Vouchers

housing income programs tenant

How Voucher Programs Work

Voucher programs pay a portion of the rent for qualifying families. Only low-income families are eligible, specifically those with incomes lower than half of an area's median income. Under some circumstances, families with up to 80% of the local median income may also qualify; such cases may involve, for instance, families displaced by public housing demolition. The family pays 30% of its income in rent. Vouchers are issued by the Public Housing Agency, which executes assistance contracts with the landlord, who must also qualify.

Two major voucher programs are available: tenant-based and project-based. In tenant-based programs, the voucher "follows" the tenant when the tenant moves to another qualifying unit. In project-based programs, the voucher "attaches" to a project. Families are directed to participating projects after they qualify. Tenants cannot automatically transfer their voucher in a project-based dwelling to another—but they may qualify for tenant-based vouchers after they move.

In addition to these two basic programs, HUD also has five other voucher programs. Conversion vouchers are used to help tenants relocate when public housing is demolished. Family unification vouchers are used to help families stay together. Homeownership vouchers assist families in purchasing a first home or another home if the family has not lived in a house in the past three years. Participants must be employed and have an income of at least minimum wage. Vouchers for people with disabilities and welfare-to-work vouchers assist the elderly or non-elderly disabled and families transitioning from welfare to work.

In all of these programs, the housing supplied is privately owned and operated and rents paid are at or below fair market rent (FMR). HUD determines the FMR in every locality of the nation by an annual survey of new rental contracts signed in the past fifteen months. The FMR is set as the fortieth percentile of rents paid, meaning that 40% paid a lower rent and 60% paid a higher rent. HUD has chosen the fortieth percentile to increase housing choices while keeping budgets at reasonable levels. Table 5.5 presents FMRs used by HUD in a sample of cities around the country in 2005. Rents in certain cities are calculated at the fiftieth percentile under new HUD rules that went into effect in 2001 for thirty-nine markets, which resulted in a raise in the FMR in these localities.

Of the cities in Table 5.5, the highest FMR for 2005 was in Boston, Massachusetts ($1,266 per month). The lowest FMR was in Louisville, Kentucky ($553 per month).

Voucher Usage

As shown in Table 5.6, the amount of subsidized housing and Section 8 housing vouchers declined across all categories between 2003 and 2005. Project-based Section 8 housing has declined dramatically because funding for new construction stopped in 1983 with some minor exceptions (including construction/rehabilitation aimed at supporting homeless programs). Support of housing in such units continues, but the housing stock is going out of use through demolitions and conversions. Thus in 2005 the vast majority of Section 8 housing vouchers were tenant-based.

Characteristics of Voucher Residents

Although tenant-voucher residents have a fractionally higher average household income than public housing residents, they also have a larger family size. Therefore, two-thirds of voucher users (66%) and a little more than TABLE 5.5
Fair market rental rates for selected metropolitan areas, 2005
[In dollars]
SOURCE: Adapted from "Survey Results," in Fair Market Rents for the Voucher Choice Housing Program and Moderate Rehabilitation Single Room Occupancy Program Fiscal Year 2005, Department of Housing and Urban Development, February 28, 2005, http://www.huduser.org/Datasets/FMR/FMR2005R/Revised_FY2005_FMR_Preamble.pdf (accessed March 12, 2005)

Area definition Fair market rental
rate, 2005
Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY 679
Albuquerque, NM 699
Atlanta, GA 834
Bergen-Passaic, NJ 1,132
Boston, MA 1,266
Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 652
Columbus, OH 640
Dayton-Springfield, OH 595
Denver, CO 888
Detroit, MI 805
Honolulu, HI 1,087
Houston, TX 733
Kauai County, HI 1,061
Louisville, KY-IN 553
Maui County, HI 1,149
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 593
Nashville, TN 654
Newark, NJ 1,020
New York, NY 1,075
Omaha, NE 650
Philadelphia, PA 914
Salt Lake City, UT 682
Springfield, MA 772
Tulsa, OK 640
Tuscon, AZ 673
Washington, DC 1,187

Subsidized units available under public housing and voucher programs, 1998, 2003, and 2005
SOURCE: Created by Melissa Doak for Information Plus from "Basic Counts," in A Picture of Subsidized Households in 1998, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, August 28, 1998, and Resident Characteristics Report, U.S. Department of Housings and Urban Development, March 2005, http://www.hud.gov/offices/pih/systems/pic/50058/rcr/index.cfm (accessed April 11, 2005)

1998 2003 2005
Public housing 1,300,493 1,241,466 1,220,937
Section 8 tenant vouchers 1,391,526 2,077,336 1,803,013
Section 8 project-based
1,001,939 817,274 9,833

half (56%) of public housing residents have an extremely low income for their family size (See Table 5.7). The shift of the subsidized population from public housing toward voucher housing represents not an improvement so much as a shift in policy, whereby the provision of housing in the future appears to be headed for privatization. Barbara Sard has argued in the HUD journal Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research ("Housing TABLE 5.7
Selected characteristics of subsidized housing populations, 2005
SOURCE: Adapted from Resident Characteristics Report, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, March 2005, http://www.hud.gov/offices/ pih/systems/pic/50058/rcr/index.cfm (accessed April 11, 2005)

Public housing Tenant vouchers
Average income $10,725 $11,080
Percent with income of:
$0 5 4
$1-5,000 16 13
$5,001-10,000 41 39
$10,001-15,000 18 20
$15,001-20,000 9 12
$20,001-25,000 5 6
Above $25,000 7 6
Percent below 30% of median income 56 66
Average monthly payment $243 $253
White 50 52
Black 46 44
American Indian/Alaska Native 1 1
Asian 2 3
Hispanic 21 17
Not-Hispanic 79 83
Average household size 2.2 2.6
Percent with 4 or more people 18 25
Percent with 2 bedrooms 30 37

Vouchers Should Be a Major Component of Future Housing Policy for the Lowest Income Families," vol. 5, no. 2, 2001) that tenant-based voucher programs give low-income people choices in housing and avoid problems of concentrating all poor people in housing projects.

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about 2 years ago

I am a 23 year old single mother of a handsome boy. We are homeless right now and I really need help with putting a roof over my son's head. I would like to know how can I apply for one of the vouchers and where can I go to apply for the voucher.

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over 2 years ago

Ive been unemployed since september of this year..im staying with friends but their landlord is kicking me out in less than a week. i have myself and my mother to care for.I've been researching shelters and other programs, but all funding is either depleated or earmarked for those who are currently being helped...I would like to know how to get a voucher.

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over 2 years ago

we need help applied for disiblity and cant get a job im homeless my kids and wife are staying with her mom.

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over 2 years ago

How can I get this voucher? I live in a house of 9 people, and the only person that has an income in the house is my father.

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almost 3 years ago

To Whom It May Concern,

I am a homeless woman , age 60 and with widows benifits of $710.00 per month social security.

I live in El Cajon Ca and I need a place to live.

Can you help me? I have been homeless since June 9th this year and I am not doing well with this.

Thank You,


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about 3 years ago

iam homeless now and been for about 5months now i need help with a place to live and money to get me to school and back to where every i mite be staying please help me

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almost 4 years ago

iam a homeless young lady of the age 40yr single mother. Dead Beat Dad on file with government food assistance help only with out a shelter or vechile had to sell my family van for extra money to make it thought life and still struggling with help. I'am in necessary of need. I fit the requirment also looking for a job that is not working out for me at all. My clothes and hygeines have been stolen out in the wood in the street. The only clothes that i have is only what iam wearing. I am going bizzar. I did have deperssion 21yr ago. Before thought out school year and it's coming back again because of my living style. Please Help

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almost 2 years ago

I am a 40 Yr. old woman with seven yr. old in need of housing will be homeless soon. AS of Frjiday. Need information Immediately.

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almost 2 years ago

I am a single father of two boys.I was always a hard worker and have alot of skills.But i have injured my back and been in bed for a year now.I lost a lot of hope and been in so much pain. I saw many doctors and im getting a lot of neglects for my pain so im so far gone on getting a job no matter what it is because im so depressed and pain is always so much.Even a desk job will be out of my field. We are homeless and sleep on family couches and really soon we are not going to be having no more shelter.Please give me
any info or help that you are able to give so I could start taking care of my self and then be the father I know Im able to be and change are lives. This is a start for me to reach out to a place that might be able to make a blessing change in a family.It is so heart breaking when i cant be the father to my boys,there eyes of let downs that i see cant be explained the hopeless in my self and its leading to let downs every day that they are use to it far as shelter,food and them seeing there father hurting and strongly making that everyday hope for us to eat and sleep.Thank you for who ever reads this and helps my family with just a effort that will lead to a start positive living then I could make a new begging to fight for the rest of my working career life.Im only 32 and know I have more in me to continue on and not just give up yet, I just need that help I been trying on my own and know realizing I cant do that first beginning step that I been trying for a year. Once I get the help that I need to start the next step on living,caring, and raising my children in better enviroments .

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over 2 years ago


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over 2 years ago

I wa just release from prison homesless living from house to shelter consistly

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