Housing officials say landlords who accept housing choice vouchers in their rental units are in short supply, and a new program will pay cash to new participants.
A new program from the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority will use federal COVID-19 relief funds from the CARES Act to pay landlords $500 in cash for every rental unit they sign up with the housing authority to be used for affordable housing through the voucher program. These vouchers, commonly known as Section 8 vouchers, provide assistance to over 2,000 low-income households in Ada County with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
This is funded through $50,000 of CARES Act funds allocated to the housing authority, which expire by the end of May. If the funds are not spent, they will be returned to the federal government.
How do housing choice vouchers work?
If someone receives a voucher, they must find a landlord in the private market who will rent a unit to them that falls under a price set by the federal government. Then, the renter pays 30% of their income to the landlord in rent and utilities and the housing authority covers the rest with the voucher.
But, units accepting those vouchers are in short supply right now because of the tight housing market. BCACHA Housing Programs Manager Jillian Patterson said only 70% of voucher recipients are able to find a place to live, leaving the other 30% to return their vouchers and continue searching for housing without assistance. The wait for these vouchers can be years long.
Patterson said the goal of the program is to encourage more landlords to participate in the program and learn about the benefits, instead of relying on misconceptions. If landlords get the incentive, they can use the $500 for anything they choose.
“Some landlords have participated many years ago and had a bad experience with a tenant. Maybe they damaged a unit or didn’t pay their rent and once that happens some landlords will apply that to everyone who is on the program.”
To qualify for the program, 75% of voucher holders must make 30% of the area median income or less. This is equivalent to $15,750 for a single person before taxes or a biweekly paycheck of $605. The rest of the vouchers go to those making less than 80% of the area median income, which is equivalent to $41,900 for a single person before taxes. This translates to a biweekly paycheck of $1,611 before taxes.
Tenants must rent an apartment less than standards set by HUD, which are determined by the market. This is currently set at $1,102 for a two bedroom apartment in Ada County.
Patterson said the incentive might help the agency talk with more landlords about the financial benefits of renting to those with vouchers. Even if a tenant does not pay their rent, 70% of the payment is guaranteed by the housing authority. Also, if a tenant loses their job sudden or their hours are reduced, which happened frequently due to COVID-19, the amount of rent they would personally owe would drop with it, but the landlord would still get the full rent amount because they participated in the program.
“At present we have a little over 100 families looking for housing and some of them have been waiting for years for this assistance, but they can’t connect it to a unit,” Patterson said. “It’s a tricky process, but that’s why we’re trying to come up with creative ways to get landlords to engage with us and participate in the program.”