On August 20, 2015, HUD published a Final Rule in the Federal Register titled, “Housing Choice Voucher Program: Streamlining the Portability Process.” This final rule amends HUD’s regulations governing portability in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. Portability is a feature of the HCV program that allows an eligible family with a HCV to use that voucher to lease a unit anywhere in the United States where there is a Public Housing Agency (PHA) operating an HCV program.
The rule takes effect on September 21, 2015.
While portability offers an effective mechanism to increase housing choice, the current process has been time consuming and burdensome. For this reason, both PHAs and participating families have not maximized the potential of the program.
Key regulatory changes implemented by this rule include:
- Removing the mandatory absorption requirement outlined in the proposed rule and clarifying the notification requirements for mandatory voucher suspension;
- Requires an initial PHA to notify the local HUD office within ten business days of a determination to deny a portability move based on insufficient funding;
- Provides that the voucher issued by the receiving PHA to the family may not expire before 30 calendar days has passed from the expiration date of the initial PHA’s voucher;
- Requires briefings for all participants on how portability works and the benefits of living in low-poverty census tracts; and
- Allows a family to choose the receiving PHA to administer their voucher should they choose to use portability.
Costs and Benefits
Changes to the rule are designed to increase the ability of participating families to live in areas of their choice in order to improve employment opportunities, gain access to better schools, and live in better environments. The rule also contributes to helping victims of domestic violence, by enabling them to move to a safe, stable home away from the abuser.
From a public policy standpoint, this new rule makes it easier for voucher holders to choose the area they want to live in, opening up new opportunities for owners of rental housing. This is especially important for owners of Low-Income Housing Tax Credit properties, since these properties cannot – by law – refuse to accept voucher holders simply on the basis of their having the voucher. Improving the portability of the vouchers will increase the supply of potential voucher holders, which in turn will provide a broader spectrum of voucher applicants. This will enhance the ability of owners to adequately screen voucher holders based on applicable selection criteria (i.e., credit, criminal screening, etc.).