Notice Provides Voucher Portability Guidance

HUD’s Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH) issued guidance regarding Housing Choice voucher (HCV) portability and the ability of voucher holders to rent a home anywhere there is a public housing agency (PHA) administering a HCV program. Notice PIH 2016-09 (HA), issued on June 6, updates previous guidance and includes modifications made to the portability rule published on August 20, 2015 (see Memo, 8/31/15).

PIH reminds PHAs that they are obligated to affirmatively further fair housing, which “includes helping families use their vouchers to move from segregated areas to integrated areas, from racially or ethnically concentrated areas of poverty (R/ECAPs), and from areas with disparities in access to opportunity within its jurisdiction and through portability moves outside of the jurisdiction.” The PHA that a family moves from is called the “initial PHA” while the PHA that a family moves to is called the “receiving PHA.”

The notice reminds PHAs that they must grant a “reasonable accommodation” to PHA rules, policies, practices, and services for residents requesting to move to accommodate the needs of a family member who has a disability. Both the initial and receiving PHAs should consider that people with a disability might require additional time to locate a suitable unit and request an extension of time as a reasonable accommodation.

When a family is first selected to participate in the HCV program, regulations require the PHA to give the family an oral briefing and an information packet that explains how portability works. HCV regulations now require PHAs to provide to all families, not just to families currently living in high-poverty census tracts, an explanation of the advantages of moving to an area that does not have a high concentration of low income families.

The regulations require the briefing packet to include a list of landlords who may be willing to lease a unit or other resources to assist a voucher holder locate a unit. Advocates expressed concerns about landlord lists because many PHAs do not analyze them to ensure that they are not primarily comprised of rentals in areas of high-poverty concentration. The final rule retained the requirement that a list of landlords be provided, but added that the list should include those in areas that do not have concentrations of poverty or minority populations. The notice requires PHAs to reach out to landlords within the PHA’s jurisdiction with properties outside areas of high minority or poverty concentrations, develop relationships with these landlords, market the advantages of participating in the HCV program, and increase their interest in participating. Consistent with PHAs’ obligations to affirmatively further fair housing, PHAs are expected to ensure that the lists also cover areas outside of R/ECAPs, integrated areas, and areas providing access to opportunity.

Portability does not apply to the project-based voucher (PBV) program. A household porting into a receiving PHA’s jurisdiction may only receive a tenant-based voucher or homeownership assistance. In order for a tenant-based voucher holder to be housed in a PBV unit, a household would have to apply to the receiving PHA’s PBV program and give up their tenant-based voucher prior to being housed in the PBV unit.

Notice PIH 2016-09 (HA) is quite extensive and detailed, primarily explaining the roles of initial and receiving PHAs. Topics include:

  • Suspension of the term of the voucher.
  • Denying requests to move, elaborating on mandatory and discretionary denials. The notice makes exceptions for a household that needs to move, even if that move violates the lease, in order to protect the health and safety of an individual who is or has been the victim of domestic violence.
  • Denying requests to move because the PHA does not have sufficient funds, describing when such a denial may be made and the procedures a PHA must follow.  
  • Initial PHA processing responsibilities, such as determining household eligibility, advising the household on how to contact receiving PHAs, and initial PHA communications with the receiving PHA.
  • Receiving PHA processing responsibilities, including a prohibition against refusing to accept porting or directing a household to a neighboring PHA and responsibilities related to rescreening households requesting to port in and determining whether the PHA will absorb the cost of the voucher or bill the initial PHA.
  • Billing procedures when the receiving PHA chooses to bill the initial PHA for housing assistance payments (HAP) and administrative fees rather than absorb the cost of the voucher. An initial PHA reimburses a receiving PHA for 80% of the initial PHA’s ongoing administrative fee or 100% of the receiving PHA’s ongoing administrative fee for each unit under HAP contract, whichever is less.

Notice PIH 2016-09 (HA) is at: