Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher eligibility is limited to elderly (age 62 or older), disabled, and low-income individuals and families. To qualify, applicants must have annual adjusted incomes below 80 percent of the local median income, adjusted for family size. The majority of families receiving housing assistance are very low income, having annual adjusted incomes below 50 percent of the local median income. Housing assistance recipients must be U.S. citizens or eligible immigrants, such as legal permanent residents or refugees. Families consisting of both eligible and ineligible immigrants can get prorated assistance. In addition, public housing agencies may perform reference checks to confirm a good tenant history.
Annual adjusted family income, which is used to determine eligibility and the recipient's share of the rent, excludes certain types of income, such as foster care payments and earnings from family members under age 18. Families receive a $480 deduction for each dependent under age 18, with a disability, or attending school full time. Elderly or disabled families receive an additional $400 deduction. Families also receive deductions for disability assistance, medical expenses, and child care expenses for children under age 13 if the parent works or attends school.
Tenant-based vouchers. Eligibility is limited to very low income families, low-income families that previously lived in public housing or project-based housing, and low-income families meeting certain PHA-specified eligibility criteria. Recipients' income may not be greater than 50 percent of the local median income. At least three-quarters of families entering a local housing choice voucher program must have income at or below 30 percent of the local median income.
Project-based vouchers. A local housing authority may spend up to 20 percent of its housing choice voucher funds on specific properties where the owner agrees to rehabilitate old housing units as subsidized units, construct new subsidized units, or set aside a portion of units in an existing development. After one year of living in a project-based voucher unit, a family may switch to a tenant-based voucher when one becomes available.
In general, housing assistance covers the gap between 30 percent of household income and local fair-market rent. Assistance amounts are based on a payment standard set by the PHA and must fall between 90 and 110 percent of the area fair-market rent, although public housing is sometimes available at below-market rent.
Families renting units at or below the payment standard pay the highest of
- 30 percent of monthly adjusted income,
- 10 percent of monthly gross income,
- the "welfare rent" (the maximum amount that can be paid by the program for a family of that size), or
- the PHA's minimum rent.
Families renting units above the payment standard pay whichever is highest of the four options above, plus the amount of rent above the payment standard.