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March 17, 2017

NOTICE OF CHANGES TO THE HOUSING CHOICE VOUCHER PROGRAM

Dear Housing Choice Voucher Landlords & Tenants:

 The purpose of the letter is to inform you of immediate changes to how the Berks County Housing Authority will continue to administer the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program, and to outline how these changes will affect landlords, applicants, and participants.

As you may well be aware, Congress has not established a budget for the current federal fiscal year, and we are now operating under a Continuing Resolution. This means that funding for all federal programs is provided at levels consistent with the prior adopted budget, which does not account for inflationary costs and increased utilization for programs such as the HCV Program.

Due to this underfunding and the uncertainty with the future budget, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) is now funding housing authorities nationwide at a reduced amount. Housing authorities therefore have no choice but to administer their HCV programs at the current shortfall level. If a budget is not established and the Continuing Resolution is extended, this reduced funding may persist into 2018. If a budget is established for the current federal fiscal year, it is expected that there will be cuts to all federal discretionary spending programs, and the HCV Program will be funded at a significantly lower amount than the previous year.

With this being said, service and continued assistance remains our first priority, and we will work to ensure that we are able to provide both service and rental assistance to as many eligible households as possible. We do not anticipate cancelling any existing Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) contracts nor do we expect to pull any vouchers from households currently assisted.

What this means to you as a landlord, participant, or applicant household:

Due to the above-mentioned budget issues, the BCHA is making the following changes to the HCV Program effective immediately:

  • We have stopped issuing new vouchers and it is unknown when we will be able to resume issuing vouchers. This means that applicants on our HCV waiting list will have a longer wait.
  • Our ability to approve rent increases will be constrained. We are asking landlords to work with our agency in finding a rent that will be reasonable for both the BCHA and the landlord.
  • Moves for program participants that will result in a higher HAP, whether within Berks County or to another jurisdiction via portability, will be limited to only those required as a reasonable accommodation.
  • For moves that are approved, there will be no double subsidy paid by the BCHA for overlapping rentals. Participants will be fully responsible for any overlap in subsidy.
  • Starting April 1, 2017, we are reducing our payment standards from 100% to 95% of the Fair Market Rents (FMRs) published annually by HUD. This will result in an increase in the tenant’s portion of rent and a decrease in the BCHA’s housing assistance payments to landlord.
    • The new payment standards will be effective immediately for all new participants and for all moves or changes of unit by current participants.
    • For current participants remaining in their current unit, the new payment standards will be effective with the second annual recertification after April 1, 2017. (For example, this change will be effective June 1, 2018 for annual recertifications effective June 1, and March 1, 2019 for annual recertifications effective March 1.)

Below is a table showing the effect the reduction in payment standards will have:

Bedroom Size: 0 BR 1 BR 2 BR 3 BR 4 BR 5 BR 6 BR
Current (100%) Payment Standard: $606 $722 $955 $1,195 $1,316 $1,513 $1,711
New (95%) Payment Standard: $576 $686 $907 $1,135 $1,250 $1,437 $1,625

During this time, we will be closely monitoring any federal budget cuts and the actual impacts to our agency. If you are concerned about this situation, please be advised that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is the federal agency that contracts with us to operate the HCV Program. Unfortunately, this issue is beyond their control, just as it is beyond ours. Any fixes must be decided by Congress and signed by the President.

As a reminder, the following changes MUST be reported, in writing, within ten (10) business days of occurrence:

  • Address
  • Telephone number
  • Family composition
  • Income of any household member (including change of employment, change in hours, part-time/full-time, public assistance, support payments, Social Security, pension, etc.)

Failure to report any of these changes in a timely manner may result in an adverse action against you and/or termination from the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

Sincerely,

Tanya Nelson, Executive Director
Carolina Hernandez, Housing Choice Voucher Program

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