Home Forward Resumes Issuing Housing Choice (Section 8) Rent Assistance Vouchers

Home Forward has started to issue Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8) again after freezing its waiting list a year ago due to the federal budget cuts known as sequestration.

The waiting list, which was created in February 2013, has 3,000 applicants chosen randomly from the 21,000 households who applied when the agency opened the list in November 2012.  The 2012 opening was the first in six years for this scarce housing resource.

With a brighter funding outlook, the agency said it can afford to use a greater percentage of the vouchers it has available to assist people who need help paying their rent.  Home Forward plans to draw 50-100 applicants a month from the list through the end of the year, which will increase the agency’s utilization of its approximately 8,900 vouchers from 95 to 97 percent.

“This is great news for applicants who have been waiting more than a year for help,” said Steve Rudman, Home Forward’s executive director.  “While our federal funding isn’t everything we need to run our programs, it will be considerably better this year and next because of the agreement Congress recently reached on spending.”

The agency estimates rent assistance payments made directly to landlords on behalf of program participants will be $58.5 million in 2014.

In addition, the agency is using its new waiting list preference for employment and education for the first time.  Applicants who are employed at least 30 hours a month or who are in education or training programs qualify for the preference.

 “If people are in their working years, we want to encourage work, as well as educational activities that will improve their economic prospects,” Rudman said, “Over the long-term, we believe they will need less assistance and increase their chances to move off the program, opening the door for others who need help.”

Participants in Home Forward’s Housing Choice Voucher program pay between 28.5 and 31 percent of their income for rent.  Seniors and persons with
disabilities pay 28.5 percent.  Those who aren’t in that category fall into the agency’s work-focused group for purposes of rent calculations.  They start the
program paying 28.5 percent of their income toward rent, and that percentage increases with time to 31 percent.