CLRP

HOUSING SUBSIDIES


State Rental Assistance Programs
Since 1985, the state has provided rental assistance to a limited number of low-income renters through the state-funded Rental Assistance Program (RAP). Rental assistance is the single most important means to make housing affordable for the poor. The RAP was modeled on a similar Massachusetts program, which was also the model for the federal Section 8 Existing Housing program. Although there are significant differenced in their administration and rules, RAP and Section 8 Existing are similar in concept. Each providers rent subsidies, paid directly to the landlord, in order to limit the percentage of the tenant’s incomes that goes for shelter. In 1997, the state supplemented RAP with a transitional welfare-to-work rental assistance program known as the Transitionary Rental Assistance Program (T-RAP) to provide rent subsidies for one year to working families which have just left welfare. According to DSS, A family pays 40% of its monthly income on rent and utilities, while elderly and disabled families pay 30% of their monthly income. RAP certificates are funded through the Department of Social Services (DSS) and are administered statewide by DSS and its agent, J. D’Amelia & Associates (JDA). JDA subcontracts operation of the housing choice program to seven local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) and one Community Action Agency throughout Connecticut. DSS also develops policies and procedures, provides technical assistance to JDA and its subcontractors, and is responsible for monitoring administration of the program.

Section 8 Program

In addition to RAP and T-RAP, the Department of Social Services also operation a portion of the federal Section 8 program 1. In fact, the state-administered portion of Section 8, which serves about 5,000 households, is more than twice as large as RAP and T-RAP combined. DSS contracts with an entity known as D’Amelia & Associates and a coalition of local housing authorities to administer all three programs 2.
Section 8 housing choice vouchers are federally funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and are administered locally by over 40 public housing agencies (PHAs) across the state and statewide by the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS) and its agent, J. D’Amelia & Associates (JDA). JDA subcontracts operation of the DSS housing choice voucher program to eleven local PHAs and one community action agency throughout Connecticut. In the Section 8 program, the basis tenant share of rent is 30% of adjusted income, but it can be as high as 40% of income. A family receiving a housing voucher can select a unit with a rent that is below or above the payment standard. The housing voucher family must pay 30 percent of its monthly adjusted income for rent and utilities. If the unit rent is greater than the payment standard, the family is required to pay the additional amount. By law, whenever a family moves to a new unit where the rent exceeds the payment standard, the family may not pay more than 40 percent of its adjusted monthly income for rent for the first year.

Program Operation

Both RAP and Section 8 are highly targeted to families which are most in need. RAP eligibility, for example, is limited to households with incomes which do not exceed 50% of area median; but, because of the severity of the need at the lowest-income end of the scale, most families with RAP certificates have incomes below 25% of area median income (below about $21,000 per year for a family of four in Hartford in 2007). RAP and Section 8 assist both working families and those receiving public assistance or disability income. It is important to recognize that they are housing programs, not welfare programs. The fact that a family is working does not eliminate the need for rental assistance. However, a large portion of certificates are targeted for families with incomes below 30% of area median income.

The tenant pays his or her share to the landlord and RAP or Section 8 pays the balance on a monthly basis directly to the landlord. The program share of the rent thus does not pass through the hands of the tenant. HUD establishes fair market rent (FMR) limits, which control what apartments are eligible for inclusion in the programs 3. The Section 8 maximum, which are adjusted downward by about $100 4 per month if utilities are not included in the rent, are set at the 40th percentile rent for the area (e.g., for 2007, the FMRs were: $1029 per month for a two-bedroom or $842 per month for a one bedroom apartment in Hartford, $825 and $694 respectively in Waterbury, $1065 and $882 in New Haven and $1267 and $998 in Danbury). Both Section 8 and RAP permit adjustment to be made in these maximums under certain circumstances; and, as a result, the permissible apartment rents covered by the programs are in some cases higher than the FMRs. For example, the state portion of the Section 8 program may use between 90 and 110% of the FMR as is permitted by federal law. The RAP program generally uses 100% of the FMR but uses higher percentages in some suburban towns in which rent levels are significantly above the regional medians..

Portability

People can move and continue to receive housing choice voucher assistance. A family's housing needs change over time with changes in family size, job locations, and for other reasons. The both programs are designed to allow families to move without the loss of housing assistance. Moves are permissible as long as the family notifies the PHA ahead of time, terminates its existing lease within the lease provisions, and finds acceptable alternate housing. Under the Rental Assistance Program (RAP), certificate-holders may live anywhere in Connecticut. Under the Section 8 voucher program, voucher-holders may move anywhere in the United States and new vouchers may move if the family lived in the jurisdiction of the PHA issuing the voucher when the family applied for assistance. Those new voucher-holders not living within the jurisdiction of the PHA at the time the family applied for housing assistance must initially lease a unit within that jurisdiction for the first twelve months of assistance. A family that wishes to move with a Section 8 voucher to another PHA's jurisdiction must consult with the PHA that currently administers its housing assistance to verify the procedures for moving.

Other Funding Programs

There are other limited funds available to select targeted groups, some for a limited time only, that are worth exploring. Some RAP and Section 8 certificates are targeted for Family Reunification when DCF has removed children because a family lacks safe stable housing. Others are targeted for people coming out of various institutional settings. In addition DMHAS sets aside a limited amount of money annually for Housing Assistance Funds (formerly known as “Bridge” funding.) These funds are distributed through selected local service providers. To be eligible an applicant must have applied for a permanent subsidy, (i.e. one of the vouchers described here or public housing) and either have not received it, or are on a waiting list. The agencies may make a grant for rental assistance or a loan for security deposits, including utility company security deposits. Statewide policies and procedures are being developed that should be similar to those used for RAP and Section 8.


Footnotes

1 Many local housing authorities also run their own Section 8 program, which are funded directly by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

2 DSS also recently received federal TANF bonus funds, of which $1 million per year for two years is being allocated to a rent subsidy program. That program, which will be operated by the same providers which administer the welfare Safety Net, will include some search assistance and other support. The federal funds expire after two years, however, and therefore do not provide the basis for a long-term rental assistance program.

3 In the RAP program, apartments must be priced within the FMR. In the Section 8 program, apartments may exceed the FMR, but only to the extent that the tenant’s share of the rent does not exceed 40% of the tenant’s adjusted income. This limits the maximum rent for a participating apartment, although that maximum will vary, depending upon the particular tenant’s income.

4 This adjustment has been increased in 2007 because of higher energy prices.