How Can a PHA Help You?
The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) and public housing programs offer critical opportunities for individuals who struggle to find affordable housing. Programs administered by PHAs are the largest sources of federal housing assistance for households with extremely low incomes. Commonly called Section 8 Vouchers, this program is administered through local Public Housing Agencies (PCAs). Each party plays a significant role in executing the Housing Choice Voucher Program. If you are seeking affordable housing due to a financial crisis, low income, homelessness, or another crisis, understanding how a PHA can help you is crucial.
What is a PHA?
Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) provide the public with several housing programs that are sponsored by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). PHAs receive money from HUD to cover the administration of the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program.
The assistance provided by PHAs is targeted at low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled. To determine if a family is low-income, PHAs refer to HUD’s income limits, which are based on the median income on a county-to-county basis. When new applications for Section 8 housing come in, HUD reviews the applications and awards funds. HUD also ensures that local PHAs follow their area’s program guidelines.
Need help finding PHAs near you? Click here to view a list of PHAs by state or county.
For more information on income limits, click here.
What is the Jurisdiction of a Local PHA?
PHAs do not all share jurisdiction. Some PHAs only provide services for a certain ZIP code, some cover entire counties, and some even cover whole states.
How can a PHA Help You if You are Experiencing Homelessness?
Housing Choice Vouchers and public housing benefits programs can help people experiencing homelessness achieve long-term housing stability. These programs are the most significant type of federal housing assistance for those experiencing homelessness. Traditionally, HUD-funded homeless assistance programs are operated separately by PHAs and are administered by local Continuums of Care (COCs).
If you are experiencing homelessness, a PHA intake worker and other service staff can help you apply for Section 8 benefits and public housing programs. They can help you take steps to move into a housing unit if you are eligible. PHAs can also advocate for those experiencing homelessness and help you look for additional opportunities to expand your access to affordable housing. Specifically, a PHA can help you move from homelessness to having housing by taking the following steps:
- You or your family have a housing or financial crisis, or you are experiencing homelessness and have decided to enter qualifying housing
- PHA staff completes an assessment process
- Based on the outcome of your assessment, your PHA will prioritize your application
- You will be assigned a case manager who will help you assemble documentation
- Your case manager will help you complete your application for housing vouchers
- Your case manager will send your application and supporting documents to PHA
- PHA will review your application and determine the eligibility
- Your case manager will help you schedule and attend a PHA interview and intake briefing
How Can a PHA Help Me Move Into Qualifying Housing?
At this point, your application will be evaluated. If you are determined to be eligible for benefits, you will begin the lease-up process or be moved into public housing. A case manager or PHA housing manager will help you navigate the process of searching for a qualifying home or apartment. You will search for an appropriate unit with support from your PHA.
The PHA will also offer support with negotiating the terms of the lease, the signing of the lease, and the move-in process. Once you find a unit and sign a lease agreement, you can submit a Request for Tenancy Form (RTA). The PHA will accept your Request for Tenancy Form and negotiate the rent. If you have any additional needs, such as move-in assistance or furniture needs, your case manager can help you obtain the help you need.
After all these steps have been taken, households can successfully move into a new housing unit with a voucher. The landlord will directly receive the voucher amount to which you are entitled, and you will be responsible for paying for the remaining balance of your rent. Support from your PHA will not completely stop once you successfully move into your unit. Instead, your household will receive periodic case management to help you maintain your tenancy. If any issues arise, you should contact your PHA case manager and ask for assistance as soon as possible.
The PHA Inspection Process
Once a family has been enrolled in the process and has chosen a place to live, the PHA is responsible for ensuring the home meets the Housing Quality Standards. This inspection will need to be conducted on an annual basis. The PHA will also need to review the lease between the tenant and landlord. The PHA will execute an agreement called the Housing Assistance Payment Contract. After these documents are all in place, your family can begin the move-in process.
What if I Have a Problem With My Landlord?
You may be wondering if your PHA can help you if you have difficulties with your landlord. In most cases, it will be up to you to resolve issues with your landlord. Although the PHA does have the authority to resolve issues between you and your landlord, they don’t usually do so unless the situation escalates. PHAs prefer tenants to work out issues with the landlord without the PHA getting involved.
The Main Purpose of a PHA
The primary role of the PHA is to ensure that the Section 8 Voucher program is functioning according to HUD guidelines. PHAs will need to certify recipients’ continued eligibility. They will ensure the suitability of the homes being rented with help from vouchers on an annual basis. As a tenant, you should be aware that your PHA has the right to request information from you to confirm your eligibility status or the condition of the rental home.
Alan is a real estate investor based in Northeast Pennsylvania with experience renovating and operating everything from single-family rentals to strip malls and storage facilities.
June 23, 2022 (Updated January 14, 2023)