THA is no longer issuing Section 8 vouchers to new participants. All new vouchers will be issued under the Housing Opportunity Program subsidy.
Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) helps people pay for housing they find and rent from private owners. Funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Housing Choice Voucher Program is the nation’s largest rental subsidy program. It used to be called the Section 8 Program.
In the Section 8 program, the family pays the difference between what THA pays and the total of the rent and utilities. The family’s share of the rent is generally between 30% and 40% of its monthly-adjusted income. The tenant pays this share directly to the landlord. THA pays the landlord its share of the rent. After the first year, a family may choose to pay more than 40%.
Through the HCV Program, THA makes over $25 million in rent payments each year to many hundreds of landlords on behalf of more than 3,500 families in Tacoma and Pierce County.
People apply to THA for a voucher and take their place on THA’s wait list. This list is long because so many people need housing assistance and because THA’s supply of vouchers is not nearly enough. In fact, THA opens the wait list to allow more people to apply once every few years.
Once a person comes to the top of the wait list, THA will determine if he or she is eligible for a voucher. If he or she is eligible, THA will give him or her a voucher. The voucher means that THA helps pay the rent on a private dwelling that he or she finds on the private rental market. The voucher holder is responsible for finding a landlord willing to rent to him or her and willing to participate in the voucher program. The apartment or home must pass THA’s inspection, and the rent must be within the limits that the program will pay.
The Assisted Family
A family may receive a voucher by signing up on the wait list, and then waiting. So many families need rental assistance that THA has a long wait list. THA opens the list for new sign-ups only every few years, and then only for a few days. THA advertises these times in advance. Many more people sign up than there are vouchers available. It may take a year or two for a family to come to the top of the wait list. When it does, THA determines if the family is eligible and suitable. This means THA looks at their income and checks for any criminal history or previous problems. If the family passes the income and background check, meets other guidelines and agrees to follow program rules, it will receive a voucher. It is the family’s responsibility to follow all the rules. If they don’t, THA may remove them from the program.
THA lets the family know how much of their rent the voucher will pay. The family pays the difference between what THA pays and the total of the rent and utilities. Under the HOP Program, the family receives a fixed subsidy. Under the HCV Program, this amount is determined by family income.
The value of a voucher is based on a payment standard set by HUD, and takes into account fair market rents in a community. To decide how much it can pay, THA uses the payment standard for the number of bedrooms on the voucher or in the rental unit, whichever is smaller. The number of bedrooms a family qualifies for is based on rules. In general, spouses share a room and two children of the same sex share a room.
Once a family receives a voucher, it has 60 days to find a place to rent. The choice of housing is up to the family, but the chosen home must be safe and in good repair. Once the dwelling passes inspection, THA will approve it as long as the rent is reasonable and within the limits the Program can pay.
The Property Owner
The property owner is responsible for screening and choosing the family as tenants. While THA does a criminal background check on all adults, the property owner should check the criminal background of all prospective tenants and their credit and prior rental history. Landlords may turn down a voucher holder for not passing such screening, even if they have no criminal history.
Once the lease is signed, the owner has all the normal obligations as a landlord that state law imposes. The owner must provide a safe and livable dwelling and respect the family’s privacy. He or she must provide all required services. Finally, the owner is responsible to enforce the lease against a tenant who breaks the rules.
The Housing Authority
THA’s job is to enforce the rules of the Voucher Program with both the tenant and the owner and pay its share of the rent. THA also tries to help both owner and tenant understand and comply with their responsibilities.