Viewpoint: Housing Choice Voucher Program and Source of Income Protection
Editor’s Note: Welcome to a new feature in the Apartment Advocate written by a staff member of an NAA affiliated association about their perspective on an issue. If you have a brief article you would like to include here, please submit it to us for consideration for publication.
This month, Ken Szymanski, Executive Director of the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association and the Apartment Association of North Carolina, shares a column he wrote for their members on working with their local housing authorities.
The Housing Choice Voucher Program and Source of Income Protection
Having been around the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program (Section 8) for many years, I’d estimate that only about 15 to 20 percent of rent-eligible market-rate apartment communities choose to participate in this voluntary program. That’s because spending the time to manage the voucher administrative process (approval, contracts, inspections, rent increases) makes it a losing proposition for an owner unless demand is not there without expanding the demand pool to include voucher holders. Throw in the unknown of the potential response of market-rate customers to the participation in the program and possibly lowering the demand pool by some amount, and it is not surprising that most market-rate rental operations respectfully decline to participate in the program.
So, for the Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA) and other local authorities, the key to facilitating better market-rate participation is to address and minimize these objections and to provide relief. And they are. For example, the CHA is now going to bi-annual inspections at properties that have had good track records with passing HUD Housing Quality Standards inspections. Similarly, the CHA is now conducting the rent comparable analysis that serves to rationalize rent increases, and no longer places this burden on the housing provider. The CHA can also assign service providers to each HCV household to help them become good residents.
The political point here is: If HCV holders routinely get turned down by lots of housing providers, it should not surprise anyone if they seek relief from their elected officials. In other political jurisdictions outside of Charlotte and North Carolina, this has escalated into Fair Housing “Source of Income” protection for these households. Most of our members strongly disfavor such protection. So, a way to minimize source of income protection from getting too much traction is for more of our members to participate in the HCV Program.