HUD Updates Mainstream Voucher Polices

Mainstream Voucher Program policies are updated in Notice PIH 2020-01, issued by HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) on January 22. Mainstream Vouchers are tenant-based vouchers that serve households that include a non-elderly person with a disability. Public housing agencies (PHAs) can apply for Mainstream Vouchers when HUD issues a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA).

The Mainstream Voucher Program was authorized in by the “National Affordable Housing Act of 1990,” but voucher assistance was not provided to people with disabilities until 1997. It operated separately from the regular Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program as the Mainstream 5-Year program (sometimes referred to as the Section 811 Voucher Program) until the “Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act of 2010” converted it to the HCV program. Congress, however, provided appropriations only to renew existing Mainstream Vouchers until the 2017 appropriations act, which provided funds for additional Mainstream Vouchers for the first time. The appropriations act for the fiscal years from 2017 through 2019 provided a total of $500 million for incremental vouchers. Congress did not appropriate additional funds for Mainstream Vouchers for FY20.

Households that include a non-elderly person with a disability are eligible to receive Mainstream Vouchers. Non-elderly is defined as someone between 18 and 62 years of age. A household receiving Mainstream Voucher assistance does not lose its eligibility once the disabled person exceeds 62 years of age; the household does not “age out” of the program.

The Notice clarifies that it does not apply to Non-Elderly Disabled (NED) vouchers. NED vouchers serve non-elderly disabled families, defined as families with a head, co-head, or spouse under age 62. While Mainstream Vouchers serve non-elderly persons with disabilities, they are not NED vouchers. The funding, monitoring, and eligibility requirements are different for NED vouchers and Mainstream Vouchers.

The FY19 appropriations act added that all new and existing Mainstream Vouchers upon turnover (when a family receiving Mainstream Voucher assistance leaves the program) had to be provided to non-elderly disabled people. The Notice stresses that at turnover, all Mainstream Vouchers must be reissued to the next Mainstream-eligible family on the PHA’s waiting list.

PHAs cannot have a separate waiting list for Mainstream Voucher assistance. Instead, PHAs must maintain one waiting list for all tenant-based assistance, including Mainstream Voucher assistance. When issuing a Mainstream Voucher, the PHA must choose the first Mainstream-eligible family from its tenant-based waiting list. The Notice has detailed instructions regarding waiting-list updates.

If a Mainstream Voucher participant ports to another PHA and the receiving PHA chooses to bill the initial PHA, the voucher will remain a Mainstream Voucher. If the PHA chooses to absorb the voucher, the voucher will be considered a regular voucher or a Mainstream Voucher, if the receiving PHA has a Mainstream Voucher available. The Mainstream Voucher at the initial PHA will be freed up to lease to another Mainstream-eligible family.

PHAs are not permitted to reassign existing HCV participants to the Mainstream Voucher Program in order to make regular HCVs available.

Notice PIH 2020-01 became effective immediately and supersedes all previous Notices.

Notice PIH 2020-01 is at:

The PIH Mainstream Voucher webpage, is at:

More information about Mainstream Vouchers and NED vouchers is on page 4-18 of NLIHC’s 2019 Advocates’ Guide.