Sonoma County Housing Authority
The Sonoma County Housing Authority (SCHA) is an award-winning local public agency that provides safe, decent and quality affordable housing and supportive services to eligible persons with limited incomes.
Programs and Information
The Housing Choice Voucher Program
The Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) is funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and administered by local housing authorities (HAs). Housing Authorities have annual contracts with HUD to operate the program. The programs primary purpose is to provide rental assistance to low-income families for affordable, decent, safe, and sanitary housing. Recipients of the assistance receive a voucher to rent homes in the private market. The voucher covers a portion of the rent and the tenant is expected to pay the balance. The tenant's share of the rent is an affordable percentage of their income, which is generally between 30 to 40 percent of the monthly income for rent and utilities.
In order to become a participant of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, individuals and families must sign up on the Waiting List. This is a list of people who are waiting to receive rental assistance. Names can only be added to the Waiting List when the list is open, which is approximately every three to five years. Of the applications received while the list is open, 500 are randomly selected and assigned a place in line. Once a name reaches the top of the waiting list, the person is interviewed to determine whether they are eligible for the program. If they are, they will be issued a voucher.
The voucher holder searches for a unit in the private market. When the voucher holder finds a unit from a property owner willing to accept the voucher, the HA will then inspect the rental unit to ensure that it meets the Housing Quality Standards (HQS) of the program. If it does meet HQS and the rent is deemed appropriate for comparable rents for that size unit, the family and the property owner sign a rental agreement or lease. At the same time, the property owner and the HA sign a Housing Assistance Payments Contract (HAP) that lasts the length of the lease. The subsidy is paid to the property owner directly by the HA on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the property owner and the amount subsidized by the program.
Property owners must comply with the rental agreement or lease signed with the tenant as well as the contract signed with the HA. Should a property owner fail to meet his or her obligations, the HA may terminate the payments. The family is required to comply with the rental agreement or lease and program requirements, pay its share of rent on time, maintain the unit in good condition and notify the HA of any changes in income or family composition. A family can move without jeopardizing its participation in the program as long as it notifies the HA ahead of time, terminates its existing rental agreement or lease within the rental agreement or lease provisions and finds acceptable alternate housing.
A family in the Section 8 program may choose to exercise a "portability" right that allows it to use its voucher outside the boundaries of a particular HA's jurisdiction. This in essence means that a family can move anywhere in the United States and its Territories where there is a Housing Authority to administer the Section 8 Program.
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