Housing Choice Vouchers
Housing Choice Vouchers, otherwise known as Section 8 vouchers, are a rental assistance vehicle offered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) used by millions of households across the country. The goal of the program is to help very low-income families, the disabled, and the elderly access the private rental market. The program provides eligible participants vouchers that are used to subsidize the cost of rental housing that meets a minimum level of quality for health and safety. The voucher pays a share of the rent directly to the landlord and any remaining balance is paid by the tenant. The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) administers the Housing Choice Voucher program in the City of Los Angeles. Applicants must be US Citizens or have legal immigration status.
The specific amount of rental assistance provided depends on the local housing market as well as the tenant’s income. HUD sets the income limits for vouchers in Los Angeles based on the Area Median Income (AMI) and thresholds differ depending on the size of the household and the specific program. Only households classified as Extremely Low-Income (less than 30% AMI) and Very-Low Income (less than 50% AMI) classify for Housing Choice Vouchers. Under certain circumstances Low-income (80% AMI) households can become eligible when owners convert from a project-based (tied to a specific property) to a tenant-based (connected to individuals) program. As of 2023, the AMI for the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim region is $86,600 for a family of four.
The amount each household receives from HACLA Is determined by the Voucher Payment Standard (VPS). HACLA determines the number of bedrooms a family qualifies for based on the potential number of occupants and then VPS specifies the payment amounts for each unit size. The total tenant contribution each month is called the Total Tenant Payment (TTP). Typically, the TTP is capped at a maximum of 30% of monthly adjusted income. Assistance Is also available for utilities.
Despite the benefits of the Housing Choice Vouchers, the Section 8 program faces significant challenges In Los Angeles County. Demand for the program Is high, there Is a shortage of affordable units, and the waitlist can last for years. The average wait times for HACLA and the Los Angeles County Development Authority are 24 and 27 months respectively. Some landlords also discriminate against voucher holders. In 2022, California made discrimination against tenants who pay with subsidies Illegal, but enforcing compliance Is an ongoing challenge. The California Civil Rights Department stated that of the 80 properties it examined in 2022 nearly half showed evidence of Illegal discrimination. HACLA Is working with community partners and legislators to address these Issues and advocate for policy change.
Written by Dan Oberle