Housing Choice Voucher Program

The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program is the nation’s largest low-income rental assistance program. It is also the most targeted: at least 75% of new voucher holders must have incomes that are below 30% of their area median income.

Voucher holders pay 30-40% of their income in rent. The balance – up to a standard based on HUD-determined local fair market rents – is paid by the voucher. 

When HCV funding became a budget-based system, with funds based on prior leasing and costs, it began to limit the ability of  housing authorities to add vouchers. Even when rents leave the program or other funds become available, housing authorities may still be limited by a cap on “authorized” vouchers. 

With the exception of special purpose vouchers, the only new vouchers that have been issued since 2002 are tenant protection vouchers issued to replace subsidized units (public housing, project-based Section 8, etc.) that have been taken off-line.

The majority of voucher users are families with children.  In recent years, new special purpose vouchers have been issued to:

HUD’s FY2011 budget calls for two new voucher pilot programs: one for single, childless adults with special needs, and another for families with children who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.

The vast majority of vouchers are used for tenant-based rental assistance. But two other applications have come into use in recent years: homeownership assistance, and project-based vouchers.

In the latter, housing authorities have the option of “project-basing” a limited percentage of their vouchers.  In this case, the voucher becomes attached to a particular unit. It stays with the unit even after a tenant moves.  (However, if these tenants stay for at least one year, they receive a standard tenant-based “exit voucher” when moving, assuming the housing authority has any available.)