Getting Started

What is the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program?

The HCV program, also known as Section 8, is a federal housing program that helps participants obtain affordable housing on the private rental market by providing monthly rental assistance. Participants pay a portion of rent based on their income, while public housing authorities pay some or all of the remaining balance directly to the owner.

For more information, please see the HCV Owner Brochure here, or the Owner Partnership Guidebook here.

What is the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Cruz?

The Housing Authority is an independent agency that administers the HCV program for Santa Cruz County and the Cities of Hollister of San Juan Bautista.

The Housing Authority is not part of the County of Santa Cruz government.

Is my unit eligible to rent?

Most housing types are eligible for the HCV program, including single-family homes, apartments, condos, townhouses, single-room occupancy facilities, and manufactured homes with a space rent. You may also lease specific bedrooms in a single housing unit, known as shared housing.

I want to rent to HCV participants, what do I do?

HCV participants are just like any other tenant, and you can use whatever advertising method works best for you. However, the Housing Authority recommends that you list your property for free on AffordableHousing.com. Interested participants will contact you directly.

Will the Housing Authority place tenants in my unit?

No, it is the HCV participant’s responsibility to find a unit, and it is the owner’s responsibility to find a tenant. However, the Housing Authority recommends that you list your property for free on AffordableHousing.com. Interested participants will contact you directly.

Someone with a voucher applied to my unit, what do I do?

The HCV participant will provide you with a Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA) packet. If you want to rent to them, simply fill out the RTA and submit it to the Housing Authority.

You can deliver or mail the completed RTA to the Housing Authority office at 2160 41st Ave, Capitola, CA 95010, or email it to [email protected].

Staff at the Housing Authority will typically review the RTA in three to five business days. Staff may contact you to discuss any changes that are needed. If it is approved, you will be contacted to schedule a Housing Quality Standards inspection shortly thereafter.

Can my current tenant get on the HCV program?

The Housing Authority issues housing choice vouchers to eligible households based on a waiting list. If the waiting list is open, you can encourage your tenant to submit a pre-application, but the wait is typically years long. Additionally, some vouchers are issued based on referrals from other service organizations.  You or your tenant can visit our website for more information about open waiting lists and referral programs.

If your tenant was issued a voucher, they may continue to lease your unit with the rental assistance it provides.

Rent

How much is a voucher worth?

A housing choice voucher does not have a specific monetary value. Vouchers enable the holder to receive rental assistance from the Housing Authority and the amount of rental assistance that it provides can vary. Please find more information on the Rent Information & Payment Standard page, found here.

You may also view the Owner Partnership Guidebook here.

How much can I charge for rent?

The HCV program does not set a universal cap on rent, but it is designed to ensure that rent is affordable for the participant when they first move into the unit.

For more details, please see a flyer explaining the variables here, or visit the Rent Information & Payment Standard page, found here.

You may also view the Owner Partnership Guidebook here.

Who pays the security deposit?

HCV participants are responsible for paying the security deposit. If your tenant needs assistance with the security deposit, please direct them here.

Can I raise the rent?

Yes, with Housing Authority approval. Owners may request a rent increase by first serving a 60-day notice to their tenant and then providing a copy of that notice to the Housing Authority. Please note that the notice must include all the following information to be accepted:

  • Address of the rental unit
  • Proposed rent rate
  • Effective date of the increase

Approved rent increases become effective on the first of the month, at least 60 days after the notice was submitted. You may specify a later date, up to 90 days after the notice was submitted.

All rent increases are subject to rent reasonableness regulations. For more information on rent reasonableness, please visit here, or view the Owner Partnership Guidebook here.

 Additionally, state or local laws may limit how much you can increase the rent. The Housing Authority suggests that you contact an attorney or other legal entity for more information about limitations on rent increases.

Tenant Questions & Concerns

Does the Housing Authority screen tenants?

The Housing Authority only screens HCV participants for program eligibility. Applicants may be denied for their income level, ineligible immigration status, registration as a lifetime sex offender, and certain violent or drug-related offenses. It is the owner’s responsibility to determine the suitability of the participant at the property.

Can I run a background check on an applicant to my unit?

Yes, HCV participants are just like any other tenant. You can perform any background check within the law that you find necessary.

When can my HCV tenant move in?

Per HCV regulations, rental assistance may not begin until the unit passes the Housing Quality Standards inspection. If your tenant moves in before the unit passes inspection, they are responsible for the entirety of rent until the unit has passed.

An HCV participant applied to my unit. How do I know if they are eligible for it?

A Housing Authority Specialist can complete an eligibility calculation for you. Please send an email to [email protected] or to [email protected] requesting this calculation. A Specialist will respond with a questionnaire that you should fill out with details that are needed to complete the calculation.

Please note that this calculation is an estimate and official determination can only be made after a Request for Tenancy Approval is submitted.

My tenant is violating the lease, what do I do?

As with any other tenant, owners maintain the right to manage their property and enforce the lease agreement. While the Housing Authority anticipates you will have a positive experience, you can take any action within the law, including eviction.

Please supply the Housing Authority with a copy of any notice you give your tenant. You can deliver or mail copies to 2160 41st Ave, Capitola, CA 95010, or email them to [email protected].

Will the Housing Authority help enforce my lease/help evict my tenant?

No. The lease agreement is exclusively between the tenant and the owner, so the Housing Authority has no legal capacity to enforce its terms. The Housing Authority is only able to offer guidance to the tenant as it relates to staying compliant with program regulations.

Please consult with an attorney or other legal agency to discuss your options. Staff at the Housing Authority are not qualified to provide legal advice.

Will the Housing Authority pay for tenant-caused damage to the unit?

The Owner Assurance Program may reimburse owners up to $5,000 past the security deposit for various expenses, including tenant-caused damages. Owners must submit a claim for review. Please find more information here.

My tenant moved out without notice, what do I do?

Please notify the Housing Authority of the tenant’s move-out date as soon as possible. Housing assistance payments are not prorated for the last month. Depending on the move-out date, you may be entitled to retain the full payment, or you may have to pay it back.

Ownership and Finances

How will I be paid by the Housing Authority?

The Housing Authority offers direct deposit and encourages all owners to sign up. However, the Housing Authority will mail physical checks if you prefer.

To sign up for direct deposit, please fill out the Direct Deposit Authorization form, found here.

You can deliver or mail a completed form to the Housing Authority office at 2160 41st Ave, Capitola, CA 95010, or email it to [email protected].

When will I be paid by the Housing Authority?

You will start to receive housing assistance payments (HAP) after you sign the HAP contract, and the paperwork is processed by staff. Please allow two to eight weeks for your first payment. After this initial wait, HAP will be promptly released on the first of the month.

How do I change my direct deposit information?

Please fill out the Direct Deposit Cancelation and/or Change form, found here.

You can deliver or mail a completed form to the Housing Authority office at 2160 41st Ave, Capitola, CA 95010, or email it to [email protected].

How do I report a change in property ownership?

Please have the new owner fill out the Change in Ownership and HAP Contract Transfer form, found here.

They can deliver or mail a completed form to the Housing Authority office at 2160 41st Ave, Capitola, CA 95010, or email it to [email protected]. Please allow time for staff to process the change.

Can I hire a property management company or have someone else receive HCV-related business for my unit?

Yes, you may designate a third party to act on your behalf. Please complete the Landlord Signature Authorization form, found here.

You can deliver or mail a completed form to the Housing Authority office at 2160 41st Ave, Capitola, CA 95010, or email it to [email protected].

Miscellaneous

Who do I contact for help?

First, see if your question can be answered in this FAQ. If you still need assistance, you can call the Leasing Specialist at (831) 454-5917 or email them at [email protected]. If you leave a voicemail, calls will be returned at the earliest opportunity.

I submitted a Request for Tenancy (RTA), what’s next?

Staff at the Housing Authority will typically review the RTA in three to five business days. Staff may contact you to discuss any changes that are needed. If it is approved, you will be contacted to schedule a Housing Quality Standards inspection shortly thereafter.

What is a Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspection?

HQS guidelines establish the minimum health and safety standards allowed by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in HCV-assisted housing. All units must pass an HQS inspection before rental assistance can be provided. HQS is a visual inspection and is not code enforcement.