Photo of For Rent Sign
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As of March 11 The District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) can now pay landlords in its Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) more in order to keep up with the increasing rent in the District.

The Housing Choice Voucher Program offers subsidies to qualifying heads of household. On average, the head of household pays 30 percent of their income towards rent in an approved private property.

“Our families have fewer affordable housing options available to them now than they did just a few years ago,” said DCHA Executive Director Adrianne Todman.

DCHA increased the amount HCVP will be able to pay landlords in order to give the voucher program’s customers more flexibility. Landlords may now receive up to 130 percent of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s fair market rent for a property, according to Todman.

HUD’s fair market rent is set at 40 percent of a local housing market’s average rent including utilities, a national standard.

Usually, housing authorities are only allowed to provide landlords with 90 to 110 percent of fair market rent. DCHA was able to increase the amount it can pay landlords to 130 percent because it is a Moving to Work agency.

According to HUD.gov, “Moving to Work is a demonstration program for public housing authorities that provides them the opportunity to design and test innovative, locally-designed strategies that use federal dollars more efficiently, help residents find employment and become self-sufficient and increase housing choices for low-income families.”

Moving to Work agencies are exempt from some regulations regarding the use of federal funds.

“This increase will allow them to have more choice and move to more areas of the city, to different school districts and closer to their jobs,” Todman said.

According to HUD, the District consists of 53 rental submarkets. DCHA predicts the 130 percent cap in payments to landlords will allow voucher users to live in 26 of these submarkets, up from just 15.

A day after DCHA’s action, DC Fiscal Policy Institute released a report titled “Going, Going, Gone: DC’s Vanishing Affordable Housing” by Wes Rivers, confirming Todman’s statement.

According to their analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau’s data, the number of apartments in the District that cost less than $800 a month, including utilities, dropped from 58,000 to 33,000 between 2002 and 2013.

The DC Fiscal Policy Institute report claims that families with the lowest income have been hit the hardest. The majority of low-income families spend half or more than half of their income on housing. Families of four with incomes under $32,000 are in this category.

 

DCHA’s ability to pay landlords an unusually high amount corresponds to the District’s high increase in rental prices. According to the DC Fiscal Policy Institute’s report, rent is increasing faster than income is increasing for all renters in the District, especially low-income renters. Almost half of all rentals in the District – 73,000 units – were priced at $1,400 or more in 2013. In 2002, there were only 28,000 at that price.

According to Terri Thompson, DCHA Board of Commissioners chairman, landlords will also benefit from the increased percentage of fair market rent they are allowed to receive from DCHA.

“Now they will be able to charge a rent that reflects what they can get in the open rental market,” Thompson said.

DCHA will advertise this new opportunity within HCVP to landlords who haven’t worked with the program before as well as families who could benefit from the prospective increase in affordable housing opportunities.

HCVP Director Ronald McCoy said, “We want to help our clients succeed, so we will tell them about the schools, transportation options and screening criteria for new rental properties to better inform their decisions.”

According to McCoy, streamlining administrative procedures will pay for the possible higher cost to DCHA.