Despite unusually strong income growth in the 1990s, an astonishing 95 million Americans had housing cost burdens or lived in crowded or inadequate conditions in 2001. In fact, more than twice as many people in this country face housing problems as lack insurance. In 1991, a typical low-income family devoted 38 percent of household income to housing. In 2001, that share had jumped to 45 percent.
The housing voucher program is one of the major federal initiatives intended to bridge the housing affordability gap. But federal funding for this program is severely limited. There are not enough funds available to assist all eligible households. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, three-fourths of eligible households receive no assistance. This results in years-long waiting lists for housing assistance in most of the nation’s 3,400 local housing agencies (HAs). The average waiting time for a housing voucher is more than 10 years in Los Angeles and Newark, 8 years in New York and Washington DC, 7 years in Houston, and 5 years in Memphis and Chicago. Even continued funding to assist those already enrolled in the voucher program is not assured.
Federal tenant-based rental assistance was established as part of a major restructuring of federal housing assistance for low income families in 1974. Today, about 2 million households have HUD rental assistance vouchers, also called Section 8 tenant-based assistance, and formally referred to as Housing Choice Vouchers. The Housing Choice Voucher program provides flexibility and options by issuing vouchers to eligible households to help them pay the rent on privately owned units of the households’ choosing. Since 1998, 75% of all new voucher holders must have extremely low incomes, at or below 30% of the area median income (AMI). The remaining 25% of new vouchers can be distributed to tenants with incomes up to 80% of AMI.
In the Housing Choice Voucher Rental Program, the subsidy amount is based on Payment Standards (PS) as adopted locally by LTRAP. The rent is negotiated between the owner and the tenant. Presently, if the gross rent is equal to the PS, the participant will pay 30% of income for rent. If the rent is below the PS, the participant will still pay 30% of income for rent. If the gross rent is above the PS the participant will pay more than 30% of income for rent. In other words, the subsidy will be based on the lower of the PS or the gross rent. LTRAP will not approve a lease for a unit with a rent above the PS if it will result in the tenant paying more than 40% of his adjusted income for rent, even if the rent is reasonable. This 40% test will only be performed for a new lease. Annual rent increases are not subject to the 40% test.
(A) Organization of the Waiting List
It is LTRAP’s policy that each applicant shall be assigned his/her appropriate place in a single Section 8 Housing Waiting List. The Waiting List will be maintained in an order established by the date and time of application, (first come, first served). However, selection preferences, as detailed in Paragraph B below, will dynamically affect the order in which the names are organized on its Waiting List, and hence, the order by which these names are reached and called-in.
(B) Selection Preferences
Selection preferences shall be as follows:
1. Residents of Lakewood, defined as those who live, work, or have been hired to work, in Lakewood, as indicated on their application. A non-Lakewood resident who moves to Lakewood shall qualify as a Lakewood resident provided he/she is a Lakewood resident at the time his/her name is reached for participation (when called-in). Any Lakewood resident leaving the Lakewood area after the application has been filed will lose his/her preference unless he/she becomes again a Lakewood resident when their name is reached for call-in. It shall be the obligation of the applicant seeking a residency preference to notify LTRAP that they qualify for a residency preference, and it is the obligation of LTRAP to notify all applicants of this requirement.
2. Families, senior or disabled individuals, before other singles.
3. In each preference group preference will be given first to households with assets of less than $50,000 plus $5,000 for each child.
4. Time and Date of Application. If a lottery is performed, time and date will be determined by the order (date and time) in which the names are picked in the lottery.
5. Income Targeting – Based on current regulations as set forth in the HUD Final Merger Rule, at least 75% of all new admissions will be from the extremely-low income category.
6. Fifteen percent (15%) of all funding received from HUD, after January 1, 2001, for newly awarded Housing Vouchers, will be allocated to the disabled.
Selection preferences shall be applied universally and uniformly, across the board and without regard to applications intake closings and openings. In other words, regardless of how many times applications intake may have been opened, reopened, or suspended, and for how long, all the names received shall be considered as one continuous list, and the selection preferences shall be applied to this list in its entirety. For example, when new applications are received, new Lakewood-resident applicants will come before earlier non-resident applicants. Similarly, new single, elderly or disabled individuals will come before earlier “healthy” single applicants.