Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is Housing Choice?

Housing Choice is PHA’s Section 8 voucher program. Section 8 is a federally subsidized housing program, monitored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The program provides rental assistance to low-income families in privately owned housing units nationwide. Section 8 was established as a stepping-stone for low-income tenants to achieve homeownership.

Is PHA accepting applications for the Housing Choice Voucher Program?

The HCV wait list is currently closed. HCV is not accepting new applications. The public will be notified through TV, radio, print advertising, and on this website when the HCV wait list will be reopened.

How are applicants selected? Is it a lottery?

The wait list is not lottery-based. Applicants are selected for intake/eligibility based on the time and date of their applications.

When was Section 8 established?

The Housing Choice Voucher Program was created in 1974 by Congress through the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 (Section 8 of the U.S. Housing Act of 1937, as amended).

Is PHA the only agency in Philadelphia that provides voucher assistance?

No. Although PHA is the largest administrator of the program in Philadelphia, there are churches, community organizations and civic groups that work with HUD to provide Housing Choice rental assistance to low and moderate-income individuals and families.

Who is eligible for Housing Choice?

The following determine if an applicant is eligible:

  1. Family status requirement – PHA will give preference to applicants who qualify as families over other single persons. A “family” includes, but is not limited to:
    1. Two or more persons living together who are related by blood, marriage, or act of law, or who give evidence of a stable relationship in which resources and expenses are shared or
    2. An elderly or disabled single person with one or more live-in aides; or
    3. An elderly single person (55 years of age or older) or
    4. A disabled single person or
    5. A displaced single person or
    6. The remaining single member of a tenant family.
  2. Owner-Occupant Restrictions – PHA cannot assist persons in renting a unit if they own or have a financial interest in the dwelling or if the unit is owned by the applicant’s parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling (unless PHA determines that approving the unit would provide reasonable accommodation for a family member who is disabled.)
  3. Adult Head of Household – The head of household must be age 18 or older, income eligible, with a social security number.
  4. Social Security Number Requirements – The applicant must provide his/her social security number or verification for all family members who are age six or older.
  5. Unites States Citizenship Requirements – An applicant who is a U.S. citizen must sign a declaration of U.S. citizenship.
  6. Income Requirements
    1. At least 75% of the families admitted into the Section 8 Program in any fiscal year must be at or below 30% of the median income for the geographic area in which that person resides.
    2. Twenty-five percent of the families admitted may have incomes that exceed 30% of the median income for the area. However, PHA will now reserve half of all vouchers for low-income working families (engaged in work at least 20 hours per week); families who have been trained and certified as “work ready” by the Private Industry Council of Philadelphia; the elderly; disabled families; and veterans.
    3. PHA will reserve 25% of all vouchers for the homeless.

What are the income guidelines for Housing Choice?

Income limits effective FY 2010

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Income Limit:$16,450$18,800$21,150$23,500$25,400$27,300$29,150$31,050

How is Housing Choice rent determined?

Housing Choice tenants pay monthly rent based on their income. HUD subsidies cover the difference between the amount paid by tenants and the market rent for the unit. The 40% rent burden rule dictates that tenants can’t pay more than 40% of their adjusted monthly income in rent for the first year of the lease.

What are the types of assistance provided by Housing Choice?

Initially, the program subsidized new construction, substantial rehabilitation, and tenant rents in existing housing. In 1978, the program was expanded to include a moderate rehabilitation component; and a voucher program for existing housing was added as a demonstration program in 1983 and made permanent in 1987. Unlike the original existing housing or certificate program, the voucher set no limits on unit rents. However, the subsidy was capped. Tenants with vouchers could rent units above otherwise-applicable market rent limits by paying the additional cost, without an increase in their subsidy. In 1998, Congress merged the certificate program into the voucher program. Tenants who receive Section 8 assistance will receive a voucher with a subsidy cap.

Are Housing Choice participants also tenants of PHA?

No. Tenants in private rental units are the owner/landlord’s tenants. PHA is the administrator of the program in Philadelphia.

Who pays the rent for tenants in the Housing Choice?

HUD, through PHA, pays monthly rent directly to the owners or landlords of the units. The tenants do not receive any of the money paid for rental assistance.

Are there enough units for all of the participants?

When PHA has reached its annual cap on the admission of income-eligible families, those families who qualify for Housing Choice assistance will be placed on the waiting list.

How long can a family stay in the Housing Choice Program?

Persons with disabilities and seniors over 55 years old are exempt from time limits. The federal government has not put a cap on the length of time a person may stay in the program.

Who is in charge of the annual inspections?

The city is divided into five geographical areas according to zip codes – West, Northwest, North, Northeast, and South Philadelphia. An asset manager supervises each section. Click here for more information about our HCV offices. This system ensures landlord and tenant accountability and compliance with programmatic regulations in all areas of the city. Tenants can call the appropriate Community-based Service and Enforcement Center in their area for inspections.

How do I know when my yearly inspection will take place?

Annual inspections coincide with the tenant’s recertification date. A property inspection will be scheduled 120 days prior to the unit’s contract anniversary date. Tenants will receive a notice including an inspection date and time. If the unit does not pass inspection, a written repair notice will be sent to the landlord who will then have 30 days to make any necessary repairs. If those repairs are not made within 30 days, the landlord will receive written notice of termination from the Housing Choice program.

How are payments handled if a property does not pass inspection?

The landlord is given 30 days in which to make the required repairs to the property. (Repairs required for health and safety related issues: i.e., heating and plumbing, fire alarm must be completed within seventy-two [72] hours.) If the repairs are not completed within the 30 days, the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) will be terminated and the case will be sent to the Compliance Unit. Once the repairs are completed, and the property passes inspection, payments will resume effective the date of the approved inspection. No payments will be made for the termination period.

Who can I call on the day of my scheduled inspection to find out an approximate time for the inspection?

Call your service representative. Click here for contact information for your HCV office.

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