Using Tenant Based Rental Assistance

Tenant-based rental assistance programs provide eligible participants a voucher or certificate they can use to “shop” for a unit that meets their needs. The unit must meet the rent payment standard for the program and typically must pass a housing quality inspection. Properties with federal funding assistance cannot refuse to rent to people who have a rent subsidy. Other landlords must agree to accept rental assistance.

Tenant based rental assistance generally enables eligible households to pay a specific percentage of their household income toward rent and utilities. The subsidy pays the difference, up to an established payment limit. The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development typically considers housing “affordable” when it costs no more than thirty percent (30%) of a household’s monthly income. Certain types of income or expenses may be deducted or excluded from monthly income: these are adjustments to income. Therefore, subsidies are often set so that households pay no more than 30% of their monthly adjusted income or ten percent (10%) of their monthly gross income, whichever is higher. Though a household’s income may fluctuate, the percentage of income they pay toward housing remains the same. The subsidy may therefore also fluctuate, and if income decreases significantly, the subsidy may become very large. That is why rent structures where households pay a percentage of their household income toward rent and utilities are known as “deep subsidies.”

The Housing Choice Voucher program is a tenant-based rental assistance program administered by public housing agencies at the local, regional and state levels. Eligible households receive a voucher they can take to any landlord who will accept it. They typically will pay no more than 30-40% of their adjusted monthly income toward rent plus utilities. The rent cannot exceed the payment standard for the program.

Some Housing Choice Voucher Programs in Virginia have applied to HUD for a special preference for the Settlement Agreement population. This preference allows Housing Choice Voucher programs to set aside vouchers for this population or to move members of the Settlement Agreement population to the top of the voucher program’s waitlist.

The Special Admissions Preference Voucher FAQ explains more about this initiative and how individuals can be referred. (Click on the link to download the pdf from DBHDS.)
The Special Admissions Preference Voucher Roadmap describes the steps individuals take to obtain housing using this type of rental assistance.

The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) has created a State Rental Assistance Program (SRAP) to serve individuals with developmental disabilities in the Settlement Agreement population who want to live in their own housing. The program provides tenant-based rental assistance to eligible individuals in the target population so their household can rent in one of the following participating areas: the Cities of Chesapeake, Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Fairfax; Fairfax County; and the Towns of Clifton, Herndon and Vienna. The SRAP FAQ explains more about the State Rental Assistance Program and how individuals can be referred. (Click on the link to downlod the pdf from DBHDS.)

Support coordinators who refer individuals for the Special Admissions Preference or SRAP must complete certain steps throughout the process to help the individual apply for and obtain rental assistance, transition to rental housing and maintain housing. Here is a link to the Support Coordinator Checklist pdf