Tacoma Housing Authority to End Housing Opportunity Program
New households will receive traditional, income-based Housing Choice Vouchers
On Wednesday, April 27, 2022, the Tacoma Housing Authority’s (THA) Board of Commissioners approved a resolution to sunset the Housing Opportunity Program (HOP). Effective May 1, 2022, THA will no longer issue new HOP subsidies. New households will receive traditional, income-based Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV), commonly referred to as Section 8. Current HOP households will be transitioned over to income-based rental assistance in phases over the course of the year.
The change comes after a thorough review of HOP by the Tacoma Housing Authority, which included public comments from community members and HOP participants. THA anticipates all HOP households will be receiving income-based assistance by the end of 2023, if not earlier.
The Tacoma Housing Authority developed the Housing Opportunity Program subsidy model in 2013, when THA was facing significant budget constraints. The intent of the program was to assist more households with fewer funds. To do this, THA replaced the traditional Housing Choice Vouchers with HOP.
HOP households receive a fixed subsidy based on household size. The HOP subsidy covers 50% of the payment standard and the household is responsible for the remaining rent amount. In a recent review of the Housing Opportunity Program, THA found that due to significant shifts in Tacoma’s housing and rental market over the last few years, households with the lowest incomes have often been unable to afford to pay the remaining rent they are responsible for. In fact, after often waiting more than 1-2 years on THA’s waitlist, about 40% of extremely low-income households never found housing with a HOP subsidy. An overwhelming majority of public comments echoed this data, and virtually all comments favored ending HOP in favor of HCV.
Internal data also indicated a growing disparity between white and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) households, with BIPOC households becoming less likely to lease up with THA assistance in the most recent years. Additionally, when comparing HOP to the traditional HCV program, across nearly all demographic categories, households were more likely to lease up, increase their income, achieve self-sufficiency, and exit with a lower market rent burden if they were on the HCV program.
With a Housing Choice Voucher, a household spends roughly 30% of their income towards the rent. Currently, two-thirds of HOP households are rent burdened, meaning they are spending more than 30% of their income towards rent. These households will experience relief under the new rent calculations.
Additionally, THA’s Board approved eliminating the five-year time limit on assistance for most HOP households. HOP households and those on the Children’s Housing Opportunity Program (CHOP) will no longer be subject to time limits. This change applies to current and future households. The one exception to this change is that participants in the College Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) are still subject to time limits. However, THA currently has a moratorium on enforcing time limits and continues to analyze how this program can more equitably serve Tacoma families.