> Housing Choice Voucher Program

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Click on each section with an arrow below to expand and view FAQs.
 
 

Applicants

What are housing choice vouchers?

The housing choice voucher program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments.

The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects.

Housing choice vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies (PHAs). The PHAs receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher program.

A family that is issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of the family’s choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program. This unit may include the family’s present residence. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by the PHA.

A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the PHA on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program. Under certain circumstances, if authorized by the PHA, a family may use its voucher to purchase a modest home.

Am I eligible?

Eligibility for a housing voucher is determined by BVCOG based on the total annual gross income and family size and is limited to US citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status. In general, the family’s income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which the family chooses to live. By law, BVCOG must provide 75 percent of its voucher to applicants whose incomes do not exceed 30 percent of the area median income. Median income levels are published by HUD and vary by location.

During the application process, BVCOG will collect information on family income, assets, and family composition. BVCOG will verify this information with other local agencies, your employer and bank, and will use the information to determine program eligibility and the amount of the housing assistance payment. If BVCOG determines that your family is eligible, BVCOG will issue you a housing voucher.

How do I apply?

You must submit an application on-line at www.bvcog.org. Your application will be placed on the HCV Waiting List. When your application reaches the top of the Waiting List, BVCOG will determine your eligibility based on your income, assets, citizenship status, family composition, criminal background, sex offender background, and previous assisted-housing background.

Local preferences and waiting list – what are they and how do they affect me?

BVCOG has established local preferences for selecting applicants from its waiting list. BVCOG gives a preference to an applicant who is: (1) a US Military Veteran, (2) currently residing within the seven-county BVCOG jurisdiction in Texas, and/or (3) an Elderly Person. Families who qualify for any such local preferences move ahead of other families on the list who do not qualify for any preference. BVCOG has the discretion to establish local preferences to reflect the housing needs and priorities of its particular community.

Housing vouchers – how do they function?

The Housing Choice Voucher Program places the choice of housing in the hands of the individual family. A very low-income family is selected by the PHA to participate is encouraged to consider several housing choices to secure the best housing for the family needs. A housing voucher holder is advised of the unit size for which it is eligible based on family size and composition.

The housing unit selected by the family must meet an acceptable level of health and safety before the PHA can approve the unit. When the voucher holder finds a unit that it wishes to occupy and reaches an agreement with the landlord over the lease terms, BVCOG must inspect the dwelling and determine that the rent requested is reasonable.

BVCOG determines a payment standard that is the amount generally needed to rent a moderately-priced dwelling unit in the local housing market and that is used to calculate the amount of housing assistance a family will receive. However the payment standard does not limit and does not affect the amount of rent a landlord may charge or the family may pay. A family which receives a housing voucher can select a unit with a rent that is below or above the payment standard. The housing voucher family must pay 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. By law, whenever a family moves to a new unit where the rent exceeds the payment standard, the family may not pay more than 40 percent of its adjusted monthly income for rent.

The rent subsidy: BVCOG calculates the maximum amount of housing assistance allowable. The maximum housing assistance is generally the lesser of the payment standard minus 30% of the family’s monthly adjusted income or the gross rent for the unit minus 30% of monthly adjusted income.

Can I move and continue to receive housing choice voucher assistance?

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 are permissible as long as the family notifies BVCOG ahead of time, terminates its existing lease within the lease provisions, and finds acceptable alternate housing.

Under the voucher program, new voucher-holders may choose a unit anywhere in the United States if the family lived in the jurisdiction of the PHA issuing the voucher when the family applied for assistance. Those new voucher-holders not living in the jurisdiction of the PHA at the time the family applied for housing assistance must initially lease a unit within that jurisdiction for the first twelve months of assistance. A family that wishes to move to another PHA’s jurisdiction must consult with the PHA that currently administers its housing assistance to verify the procedures for moving.

Roles – the tenant, the landlord, BVCOG and HUD: Once BVCOG approves an eligible family’s housing unit, the family and the landlord sign a lease and, at the same time, the landlord and BVCOG sign a housing assistance payments contract that runs for the same term as the lease. This means that everyone — tenant, landlord and BVCOG — has obligations and responsibilities under the voucher program.

Tenant’s Obligations: When a family selects a housing unit, and BVCOG approves the unit and lease, the family signs a lease with the landlord for at least one year. The tenant may be required to pay a security deposit to the landlord. After the first year the landlord may initiate a new lease or allow the family to remain in the unit on a month-to-month lease.

When the family is settled in a new home, the family is expected to comply with the lease and the program requirements, pay its share of rent on time, maintain the unit in good condition and notify BVCOG of any changes in income or family composition.

Landlord’s Obligations: The role of the landlord in the voucher program is to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing to a tenant at a reasonable rent. The dwelling unit must pass the program’s housing quality standards and be maintained up to those standards as long as the owner receives housing assistance payments. In addition, the landlord is expected to provide the services agreed to as part of the lease signed with the tenant and the contract signed with BVCOG.

BVCOG’s Obligations: BVCOG administers the voucher program locally. BVCOG provides a family with the housing assistance that enables the family to seek out suitable housing and BVCOG enters into a contract with the landlord to provide housing assistance payments on behalf of the family. If the landlord fails to meet the owner’s obligations under the lease, BVCOG has the right to terminate assistance payments. BVCOG 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.

HUD’s Role: To cover the cost of the program, HUD provides funds to allow BVCOG to make housing assistance payments on behalf of the families. HUD also pays BVCOG a fee for the costs of administering the program. HUD monitors BVCOG administration of the program to ensure program rules are properly followed.

How long can I expect to wait for housing assistance?

The demand for housing assistance currently exceeds the limited financial resources available to BVCOG. Long waiting periods are common. Please wait patiently and keep your address up-to-date.

Does BVCOG provide help in finding a rental unit?

BVCOG provides a free Rental Unit Listing of rental units that are currently available with your Voucher. You can access this rental unit listing on-line at www.bvcog.org under the “Applicants” tab.

Owners and Landlords

How do I rent my vacant unit to a BVCOG voucher holder?

You can call our office at anytime at (979) 595—2800 or e-mail us at tray@bvcog.org to have your vacant unit listed on our Rental Unit Listing. This is a list of available units that our Voucher holders use to find a unit. By placing your unit on this list, you are not required to rent to a Voucher holder. The tenant must always pass your complete tenant screening procedures. Our Rental Unit Listing is provided to hundreds of families each year who search for a unit through our Program. Once you are approached by a Voucher holder to apply to rent your available unit, we ask that you to do a complete and thorough tenant screening.

Once you have decided to rent to a Voucher holder and they have passed your tenant-screening, s/he will have a “Request for Inspection” packet for you to complete and return to our office. Your unit will then be inspected by one of our Housing Inspectors to ensure that it is healthy and safe for the family and that it meets the HUD Housing Quality Standards. After your unit passes our housing inspection and your proposed rent amount has been approved by our office as a comparable rent amount to unassisted units in the neighborhood around your available unit, you and the tenant must then enter into a lease for an initial term of one-year.

BVCOG will then execute a Housing Assistance Payment Contract with you prior to providing our housing assistance for the Voucher holder in your unit. We recommend that you collect a security deposit because we do not tolerate tenant-caused damages to your unit.

What are owners’ responsibilities Under the Program?

We encourage you to take advantage of this rental opportunity to several hundred of our families each year. If you decide to rent to a Voucher holder, here are your responsibilities under the Program:

1. Enforcing tenant obligations under their lease;

2. Collecting from the tenant a security deposit and their monthly tenant rent payment;

3. Maintaining your unit in accordance with BVCOG housing inspection standards, including performing ordinary maintenance;

4. Perform all management and rental functions for your unit, including deciding if a new or existing tenant is suitable for tenancy;

5. Preparing and furnishing to BVCOG any information required under the Housing Assistance Contract between BVCOG and the Owner;

6. Paying for utilities and services (unless paid for by the tenant).

How Can I Terminate My Lease with a Voucher Holder?

During the term of the lease and Housing Assistance Contract with BVCOG, the owner may terminate tenancy for any of the following reasons:

1. Serious or repeated violations of the terms and conditions of the lease, including failure of the tenant to pay rent or other amounts due under their lease;

2. Violations of federal, state, or local law that directly relate to the occupancy or use of the unit or premises;

3. Criminal activity or alcohol abuse by the tenant;

4. Other good cause. During the initial lease term and any extension, other good cause may include: 1) Disturbing neighbors; 2) Destroying property or engaging in other activities that result in damage to the unit or premises; and 3) Carrying out living or house-keeping habits that cause damage to the unit or premises.

After the initial lease term, other good cause may also include: 1) The family not accepting an offer of a new lease or revision; 2) Owner desire to use the unit for personal or other use; and 3) Business or economic reasons, such as the sale of the property, renovation, or the request for a rent higher than BVCOG can approve for the unit.

Family Self-Sufficiency Program

What is the HCV family self-sufficiency (FSS) Program?

Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) is a HUD program that encourages communities to develop local strategies to help voucher families obtain employment that will lead to economic independence and self-sufficiency. Public housing agencies (PHAs) work with welfare agencies, schools, businesses, and other local partners to develop a comprehensive program that gives participating FSS family members the skills and experience to enable them to obtain employment that pays a living wage.

How do families apply to the HCV-FSS program?

Families that are selected to receive a voucher or who currently receive assistance through the Housing Choice Voucher Program are eligible to join the BVCOG FSS Program as long as space is available.

What kind of services does FSS offer?

Some services are provided directly by BVCOG staff, while other services are provided through referrals to outside organizations. Personal Services include:

- Career Counseling

- Job Training and Placement

- Job Seeker Skills

- Computer Skills Training

- Adult Basic Education/GED

- Homeownership Counseling

- Credit Counseling

What requirements must a family meet to participate in the HCV-FSS program?

BVCOG and the head of each participating family execute an FSS Contract of Participation that specifies the rights and responsibilities of both parties. The 5-year FSS Contract specifies goals and services for each family. Family members must fulfill all requirements in order to obtain full benefits.

The FSS Contract requires that the family comply with the lease, that all family members become independent of welfare, and that the head of the family seek and maintain suitable employment. Possible sanctions for noncompliance with the FSS Contract are termination from the FSS Program, forfeiture of the FSS escrow account, withholding or termination of supportive services, and termination of housing choice voucher assistance.

What is the HCV-FSS escrow account?

An interest-bearing FSS escrow account is established by BVCOG for each participating family. An escrow credit, based on increases in earned income of the family, is credited to this account by BVCOG during the term of the FSS Contract. BVCOG may make a portion of this escrow account available to the family during the term of the contract to enable the family to complete an interim goal such as education.

If the family completes their FSS Contract and no member of the family is receiving cash welfare assistance, the amount of the FSS account is paid to the head of the family. If BVCOG terminates the FSS Contract, or if the family fails to complete the FSS Contract before its expiration, the family’s FSS escrow funds are forfeited.

Do I have to give up my Voucher when I complete all of my goals on my 5-Year Contract?

No. Although it is hoped that families will no longer need housing assistance upon completion of the FSS Program, some families that complete the program will still need assistance for housing. The law provides that a family may complete its FSS Contract and receive its escrow while continuing to receive housing assistance under the voucher program.

Homeownership Program

If I wish to purchase my first home but need help meeting the monthly mortgage and other homeownership expenses, is there a program that will help me?

Yes, it is called the Homeownership Voucher Program.

Who can I talk to to obtain additional information about this program?

You can call us anytime at (979) 595 – 2800 ext. 2042 or e-mail us at tray@bvcog.org.

If I am currently a participant in the Housing Choice Voucher program and receive rental assistance, can I use my voucher to buy a home and receive monthly assistance in meeting homeownership expenses?

Yes, if you meet income and other eligibility requirements.

If I don’t have a voucher, what do I do?

You have to apply for a housing choice voucher at BVCOG before you can participate in the BVCOG Homeownership Program.

What if BVCOG is not accepting applications?

You can either wait until the waiting list opens up again, or you can apply in another jurisdiction where the waiting list is open.

If I get on a waiting list, how long do I have to wait?

The waiting time varies from PHA to PHA. Generally, waiting times can vary between several months and several years.

If I am in Public Housing (but do not receive a voucher), what do I have to do to get into the homeownership voucher program?

You have to apply for a housing choice voucher (the same as anyone else who does not have a voucher) and meet the eligibility requirements at BVCOG.

If I get on a waiting list for a voucher, is there any special preference for me because I want to purchase a home?

No. There is no preference based on the fact that you desire to use your voucher for homeownership.

Are there any standards for the home to be purchased under this program?

The home must pass an initial housing quality standards inspection conducted by a BVCOG Housing Inspector and an independent home inspection before BVCOG may approve the purchase by the family.

What families are eligible to apply for homeownership vouchers?

Families must meet these requirements:

- First-time homeowner or cooperative member.

- No family member has owned or had ownership interest in their residence for at least three years.

- Except for cooperative members, no member of the family has any ownership interest in any residential property.

- Minimum income requirement. Except in the case of disabled families, the qualified annual income of the adult family members who will own the home must not be less than the Federal minimum hourly wage multiplied by 2,000 hours. For disabled families, the qualified annual income of the adult family members who will own the home must not be less than the monthly Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit for an individual living alone multiplied by 12. The PHA may also establish a higher minimum income requirement for either or both types of families. Except in the case of an elderly or disabled family, welfare assistance is not counted in determining whether the family meets the minimum income requirement.

- Employment requirement. Except in the case of elderly and disabled families, one or more adults in the family who will own the home is currently employed on a full-time basis and has been continuously employed on a full-time basis for at least one year before commencement of homeownership assistance.

- Additional PHA eligibility requirements. The family meets any other initial eligibility requirements set by the PHA.

- Homeownership counseling. The family must attend and satisfactorily complete the PHA’s pre-assistance homeownership and housing counseling program.

What are monthly homeownership expenses?

Monthly homeownership expenses include:

1. Mortgage principal and interest,

2. Mortgage insurance premium,

3. Real estate taxes and homeowner insurance,

4. BVCOG allowance for utilities,

5. BVCOG allowance for routine maintenance costs,

6. BVCOG allowance for major repairs and replacements,

7. Principal and interest on debt to finance major repairs and replacements for the home, and

8. Principal and interest on debt to finance costs to make the home accessible for a family member with disabilities if BVCOG determines it is needed as a reasonable accommodation.

How much financial assistance can BVCOG provide in each voucher?

BVCOG uses its normal voucher program payment standard schedule to determine the amount of subsidy. The housing assistance payment (HAP) is the lesser of either the payment standard minus the total tenant payment or the family’s monthly homeownership expenses minus the total tenant payment. BVCOG makes the HAP payment directly to the family.

What is the total monthly tenant payment?

For purposes of calculating the amount of financial assistance to be provided by BVCOG, the monthly tenant payment is generally 30% of the family’s adjusted monthly income.

What do I have to pay each month?

You have to pay at least the total tenant payment (approximately 30% of adjusted monthly income). However, if you purchase a home that has monthly expenses higher than those covered by the total of the financial assistance provided by BVCOG together with the tenant payment (30% of income), any additional amount will have to be paid by the family. To keep families from purchasing a home that will result in a payment the family cannot afford, BVCOG, may set affordability limits for their program.

Do families have to purchase a home in the jurisdiction where BVCOG issued the voucher?

No. Families that are eligible for homeownership assistance may purchase a home outside the initial jurisdiction if the PHA in the new jurisdiction administers the homeownership voucher program and receives new families into the program. However, the family may only use the voucher to purchase a unit in an area where the family is income eligible at admission to the program.

How long can a family receive assistance under this program?

There is no time limit for an elderly household or a disabled family. For all other families, there is a mandatory term limit of 15 years if the initial mortgage incurred to finance purchase of the home has a term that is 20 years or longer, and for all other cases the maximum term of homeownership assistance is 10 years.