Changes that will affect administration of HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers for FY13 were announced in a letter sent by Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing (PIH) Sandra Henriquez to all public housing agency (PHA) directors on February 19. The purpose of the changes is to better target HUD-VASH vouchers to veterans with the greatest needs, particularly those who are chronically homeless. The letter suggests that veterans who have experienced homelessness for shorter periods of time should be assisted with non-VASH resources.
The HUD-VASH program for homeless veterans combines Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA provides these services for veterans at VA medical centers (VAMCs) and community-based outreach clinics.
The letter recognizes that identifying, engaging, and housing chronically homeless veterans may be more time-consuming than assisting others. Devoting extra time may conflict with the need for PHAs to meet voucher utilization targets. Therefore, the letter announces two changes intended to provide a more balanced approach to HUD’s monitoring of HUD-VASH performance for FY13:
- A lower target utilization rate of 88% will be applied to all HUD-VASH vouchers awarded since FY08. This 88% utilization rate will be applied at both the local and national level. A Government Accountability Office report found that PHAs had a HUD-VASH voucher utilization rate of 83% as of March 28, 2012. For vouchers in general, a utilization rate below 95% is rated as substandard.
- A national target of chronically homeless veterans comprising 65% of the veterans who enter HUD-VASH case management.
The letter notes that in the past, when new, incremental HUD-VASH vouchers were awarded, PHAs and VAMCs often had HUD-VASH vouchers from earlier years that were not leased up yet, risking the use of HUD-VASH vouchers as non-VASH vouchers. Therefore, assuming there will be new, incremental FY13 HUD-VASH vouchers, HUD will only obligate and disburse new funding when a PHA anticipates they will be leased. PHAs will be required to establish funding schedules to submit to HUD.
The letter also indicates that applicants for FY13 HUD-VASH vouchers will have to complete new implementation plans that focus on a “housing first” approach which prioritizes providing housing and then assisting homeless veterans with access to support services.
The PIH letter is attached.