What is the Housing Choice Voucher program?

The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, run by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), exists to help first-time homeowners who fall below a certain income bracket purchase a home with a voucher and receive monthly homeownership expense assistance from HUD.

It is part of the Section 8 housing program but is distinct from the Project-Based Section 8 housing program, which requires people to live in subsidized housing projects.

HCV is primarily geared toward very low and low-income families. Its principal aim is to help these people, including the elderly and people with disabilities, find safe, sanitary housing.

Who can use the HCV program?

Any family looking to use this program to buy a home must first qualify for and be admitted into the HCV program.

Anyone interested must contact their local public housing agency (PHA) to apply for admittance into the HCV program. Not all jurisdictions have a PHA that offers the HCV program, so check with your local PHA to see if they do.

In general, you need to earn less than 50 percent of the area’s median income to qualify. This eligibility checker will give you an idea. Most families and individuals who apply for and are approved for the HCV program are motivated and pay their rent on time.

What kind of house can you buy with an HCV voucher?

The voucher can be used on single-family homes, townhomes or apartments. The voucher does not limit buyers to homes inside subsidized housing projects. Here is a searchable database of low-income homes for sale in the United States. (Look for the “HCV welcome” tag on the listing as you search.)

Families can choose to buy the home they currently live in or move to a different home.

What are the requirements once a person is in the HCV program?

Every family approved for the HCV program must meet income and work requirements (exceptions to the work requirement are made for the elderly and those with disabilities). They must be a first-time homeowner, and they must attend and complete the homeowner counseling program before receiving any assistance from the government.

How long will it take to get approved for a voucher?

Applicants must be prepared to wait months or possibly years for their application to be approved and the voucher to come through. A lot depends on the location of the house they are trying to purchase.

How do I use the voucher once I receive it?

The PHA will pay a certain amount to the landlord on a monthly basis, and the family is responsible for covering the remainder of the cost. The family is responsible for paying 30 percent of their income toward rent.

Here is a step-by-step rundown of the process to use the voucher.

The bottom line

In summary, the HCV voucher program is a good opportunity for low-income first-time home buyers. Before contacting your local PHA, make sure you’re eligible for the HCV program. Then you can start looking for homes in your area (or your desired area) with landlords who accept housing vouchers.

It’s difficult advice, but be patient while you’re on the waiting list, and you can be a homeowner with the HCV program.

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