HOUSING (GENERAL); LANDLORD-TENANT RELATIONS;
LANDLORD - TENANT RELATIONSHIP;
October 10, 2003
RENT SUBSIDY PROGRAMS IN CONNECTICUT
By: Joseph Holstead, Research Analyst
You asked what the state’s rent subsidy programs are, how they are administered, and how to apply. You also asked for information about the state’s security deposit program.
Connecticut has two main rent subsidy programs that help low-income families rent privately owned housing. They are (1) the federally funded Section 8 housing choice vouchers program and (2) the state funded rental assistance program (RAP). Two other state administered programs provide rent subsidies to certain groups (1) Elderly RAP, for people in state-assisted elderly housing, and (2) T-RAP (or Transitory Rental Assistance Program for those transitioning off welfare).
Local public housing authorities (PHAs) administer both the Section 8 vouchers and RAP certificates programs. PHAs administer the vouchers either (1) under contract directly with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or (2) as subcontractors for the statewide voucher program overseen by the Department of Social Services (DSS), which contracts with John D’Amelia Associates, LLC (JDA). In either case, people apply to the PHA for a voucher.
PHAs also administer the state RAP certificates. DSS oversees administration of RAP, by contracting with JDA, who subcontracts with the PHAs (as it does with the state wide Section 8 vouchers), according to DSS’ website. Waiting lists for RAP certificates (and DSS’ statewide Section 8 vouchers) are currently closed to new candidates. But when open, people would contact JDA to apply for a RAP certificate.
DSS also administers the Security Deposit Guarantee Program, which helps financially eligible people in certain situations to secure private rental housing by guaranteeing up to two months’ rent (which most landlords require as a security deposit). By law, a landlord can ask a tenant to pay up to two months rent as a security deposit - only one month if the tenant is age 62 or older (CGS § 47a-21(b)). New Section 8 voucher and RAP certificate holders and families in emergency shelter or housing may be eligible. Applications are available at DSS offices or in emergency shelters.
Funding and Administration
The HUD Section 8 housing choice voucher program is the main federal program for assisting low-income families afford rent in private housing (24 CFR Part 982). In Connecticut, 40 local PHAs administer Section 8 voucher programs and DSS oversees a statewide Section 8 voucher program through a contract with JDA. JDA screens Section 8 customers and manages DSS’ waiting list when it is open. JDA subcontracts with 11 PHAs and one community action agency for actual voucher administration.
Eligibility and Program Parameters
A household is eligible if its income, adjusted for family size, is at or below a specified percentage (currently 50%) of area median income (AMI), as determined by HUD, where it lives. Only U. S. citizens and certain non-citizens can participate.
Once selected, a PHA compares a family's annual gross income with HUD’s very low-income or low-income limit for the area. The family's gross income cannot exceed this limit. When an eligible family comes to the top of the PHA's Section 8 voucher waiting list, the PHA issues it a voucher. PHAs use the federally determined fair market rent (FMR) to calculate payment standards, which can range between 90% and 110% of the FMR. It pays the difference between the payment standard and 30% of the household income. But it allows households to spend up to 40% of their income for rents that exceeded the payment standard during the first year they receive subsides. They can spend more than this in subsequent years (24 CFR Part 982. 508).
It is the family’s responsibility to find an appropriate unit. The unit must meet the housing quality standards and program requirements set by HUD and the rent must be reasonable, according to HUD’s website. A family may move without losing its voucher. HUD notes that a family may choose a unit anywhere in the U. S. where a PHA administers a Section 8 voucher program. But the family may only use the voucher to lease a unit in an area where the family is income eligible.
PHAs and payments to property owners. The PHA executes a housing assistance payment contract with the property owner. The contract authorizes the PHA to make subsidy payments for the family. The PHA pays the owner the difference between 30% of adjusted family income and a payment standard that the PHA determines or the gross rent for the unit, whichever is lower.
Those interested in applying should contact a PHA. Room on PHA waiting lists is limited, and DSS’ statewide Section 8 voucher waiting list is closed and will remain so for two years. A list of local housing authorities is available at DECD’s website.
DSS’ Section 8 List. With two small exceptions, DSS is not taking any more applications for its statewide Section 8 voucher program. The waiting list currently has about 4,000 names. The DSS Section 8 manager, Chris Lassen, said the list would probably remain closed for two years. The exceptions are: (1) for families referred by Department of Children and Families because lack of housing could cause a child to be placed out of home or could prevent a family from being reunified and (2) for a few (50) people who want to leave nursing homes and return to the community. Attachment 1 provides more information about the DSS administered Section 8 vouchers and a copy of OLR report 2002-R-0414 on the history of the program.
Funding and Administration
RAP is a state funded program to assist low-income families afford private rental housing. It was developed as a pilot program during the housing crisis of the 1980’s and is based on the Section 8 model.
DSS contracts with JDA to administer RAP for the state. JDA oversees the waiting list and provides client briefings, according to DSS. JDA subcontracts RAP operation to 13 PHAs and one community action agency. (DSS develops policies and procedures, provides technical assistance to JDA and the subcontractors, and monitors program administration, according to its website. )
Eligibility and Program Parameters
To be eligible, normally, a family's income may not exceed 50% of the area median income (AMI) where it chooses to live. Only U. S. citizens and certain non-citizens can participate.
PHAs advise eligible low-income families, which are chosen by JDA to participate, of the unit size for which the family is eligible, based on its size and composition. The PHAs determine a maximum allowable rent (MAR), which is estimated as the amount needed to rent a moderately-priced dwelling unit in the local housing market. PHAs use MAR to calculate the amount of housing assistance a family will receive. Families with RAP certificates must select a unit that does not exceed the MAR. Eligible families pay 40% of their monthly income on rent and utilities, but elderly and disabled families pay 30%.
Similar to the Section 8 voucher, families must find the rental unit, which must meet quality and safety standards (DSS uses the same standards set by HUD). RAP allows families to move without the loss of the housing assistance. But the family must (1) notify the PHA before the move, (2) terminate its existing lease within the lease provisions, and (3) find acceptable alternate housing.
PHAs and payments to property owners. The PHA enters into a contract with the landlord to provide housing assistance payments on behalf of the family (the landlord and the PHA sign a housing assistance payments contract that runs for the same term as the lease).
When the waiting list is open, a family that wished to apply for RAP would contact JDA to be considered for placement on the waiting list. But the waiting list will remain closed for two years, according to DSS. DSS will place a notice and pre-application form in local newspapers as well as on the DSS web-site when the list is about to be reopened. Attachment 2 provides more information about RAP certificates, including a copy of OLR report 2002-R-0007 on RAP’s history.
SECURITY DEPOSIT GUARANTEE PROGRAM
Funding and Administration
The Security Deposit Guarantee Program allows eligible families who cannot afford a security deposit to secure privately owned rental housing. It provides a guarantee to landlords of up to two months’ rent instead of an actual payment. DSS administers the program.
Eligibility and Program Parameters
Two groups are eligible if they (an individual or family) meet income requirements and: (1) hold a newly issued Section 8 voucher or DSS rent subsidy (e. g. , RAP or T-RAP) certificate (issued while the applicant was on a DSS or housing authority waiting list) or (2) reside in an emergency shelter or housing in Connecticut. Emergency housing means temporary housing (e. g. , a hotel, hospital, residential treatment facility, prison, etc. ), according to DSS’ website. It also includes the private residence of a friend or relative who temporarily shelters a household displaced within the past 45 days due to eviction, catastrophic event, or domestic violence.
People also qualify who cannot remain in permanent housing because they:
1. have certain legal judgments entered against them,
2. left to escape domestic violence,
3. were displaced by a catastrophic event or other circumstance that has made their previous housing uninhabitable,
4. share an apartment with a leaseholder who is being evicted or who is engaged in criminal activity,
have been illegally locked out,
6. live with a tenant who received a notice to quit due to rental agreement termination because a lease ends or were themselves served a notice to quit in a summary process action, or
7. have relocated because a child in the family was found to have an abnormally high level of lead in its blood.
These applicants must meet one of the following conditions:
1. the applicant currently receives some form of welfare, including Temporary Family Assistance (TFA) Diversion, State-Administered General Assistance, Refugee Assistance, Aid to the Aged, Blind or Disabled, Food Stamps; or Medicaid, or
2. the annual gross income of the applicant household does not exceed 150% of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines.
DSS guarantees payment to the landlord of the security deposit, in part or in whole, if the tenant moves out of the apartment and (1) has caused any damage which requires repair or (2) owes back rent. To receive payment, the landlord must submit a claim within 30 days after the family moves.
Application forms are available at local DSS offices. But if the household is staying at an emergency homeless shelter or a domestic violence shelter, they may apply there. Attachment 3 is more information about the program.
ELDERLY RAP AND T-RAP
Elderly RAP, administered by the state’s Economic and Community Development Department, provides rental assistance to low-income residents of state-funded elderly housing projects. Participants must spend more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities in order to qualify. The amount of assistance is the difference between 30% of the individual’s adjusted gross income, minus a utility allowance, and the base rent. PHAs that own the state-assisted housing determine which of their tenants is eligible based on annual certifications of tenants’ income. Attachment 4 is a copy of the elderly RAP regulations.
T-RAP, administered by DSS, helps families leaving TFA to afford privately owned rental housing. A DSS regional eligibility worker fills out a referral form for his eligible client and sends it to JDA. Eligible families may receive T-RAP for up to one year. Attachment 5 is more information about T-RAP, including a copy of OLR report 2003-R-0504, which contains information about (1) TFA and (2) a new rent subsidy program, funded by portions of federal High Performance Bonus funds called, Temporary Rental Subsidy program (see page 5 of 2003-R-0504).