Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV)

An Overview

The federal Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program began in 1975 as a way to assist low-income families, elderly people, and people with disabilities to rent decent, safe, and affordable housing in the community. Through this program, individuals and families receive a “voucher” — also referred to as a “subsidy” —that can be used to rent any housing that meets HCV program requirements. Because these vouchers are granted on a long-term basis, the HCV program is considered to provide permanent housing.

The HCV program is one of the most successful federal housing programs. It is also one of the best means of helping people experiencing chronic homelessness to afford and maintain rental housing of their choice. Currently, across the nation, over 2.1 million households receive housing assistance through the HCV program — including many formerly homeless households.

There are many reasons why the HCV program is an invaluable resource for meeting the housing needs of very low-income and extremely low income people, particularly those who are experiencing chronic homelessness. First, although there have been some recent reductions in funding, HCV remains the largest federal housing program targeted to extremely low-income households. In fiscal year 2015, Congress appropriated over $28 billion in continued funding for the HCV program — equal to over half the entire Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) budget. Currently, HCV assistance is offered in every state in the country and in almost every local community.

The federal government recognizes that very low-income people often do not have enough money to afford decent, safe, and good-quality housing. To address this problem, the HCV program makes up the difference between what a tenant can afford (usually capped at 30 percent of their income) and the actual rental cost of their unit, paying the difference directly to the owner. An owner who rents to a tenant with a voucher receives one part of each month’s rent directly from the tenant, and the remainder from a HUD contracted public housing agency (PHA) in their area. The amount of the subsidy available to voucher holders is based on the cost of moderately priced rental housing in the community, as determined by HUD.

To learn more about the HCV download the overview below.