INTRODUCTION TO THE PROJECT-BASED VOUCHER PROGRAM
The Project-Based Voucher (PBV) Program allows a housing authority that already administers the tenant-based Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to attach the funding to specific housing units. In the HCV Program, the family can use the voucher to receive rental assistance in a unit of their choice. In the PBV Program, the family must live in the PBV unit with the rental assistance paid to the property owner on behalf of eligible tenants.
The PBV Program has a Program Cap, which limits the number of vouchers that a housing authority may project-base. Due to its designation as a Moving to Work agency and flexibilities granted through HUD-approved waivers, the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Cruz (HACSC) has been approved by HUD to project-base up to 50 percent of its authorized vouchers or budget authority.
Project-basing gives affordable housing developers a guarantee of a future source of stable income for a project, which can be integral to the financing package that makes constructing or rehabilitating affordable housing possible. Combining PBVs with Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and other funding allows the property to rent units at deeply affordable rates to low-income tenants, while still providing market-rate revenue to the owner. This combination ensures that these properties and their surrounding neighborhoods are maintained well for generations to come. The commitment of PBVs is a vital part of affordable housing financing.
HACSC may provide PBV assistance for units in existing housing or for newly constructed or rehabilitated housing that was developed in accordance with a PBV Agreement to Enter into Housing Assistance Payments Contract (AHAP) that was executed prior to the start of construction.
How Families Benefit from Project Based Vouchers
Deeper Subsidy. Some affordable housing funding sources only ensure that projects are affordable to families at a certain income level, meaning that the units can still be too expensive for extremely low-income households, persons on fixed incomes, or persons experiencing homelessness. PBVs allow a deep level of subsidy, ensuring that housing is truly affordable, even to the lowest income families.
Units Designated for Voucher Families. Many families with tenant-based vouchers struggle to find a unit in the private rental market due to an extreme scarcity of housing and landlord reluctance to participate in the voucher program. Scarcity of available housing leads to tenant-based vouchers often expiring before a household can secure a unit, and results in loss of voucher assistance. Committing vouchers to affordable properties through the PBV program ensures those units will be available exclusively to voucher households. PBVs also help to facilitate production of housing for vulnerable populations including veterans, persons with disabilities, seniors, and persons experiencing homelessness who often are the most challenged when attempting to access housing in the open market.
Better Access to High-Opportunity Neighborhoods. Since the PBV program promotes construction of affordable housing in high-opportunity, low-poverty neighborhoods, properties with PBVs allow more low-income households, often including children, to benefit from amenity-rich neighborhoods that are likely to have strong access to schools, parks, healthcare, jobs, transportation, and other assets that improve life outcomes.
FOR OWNER/DEVELOPERS INTERESTED IN APPLYING FOR PROJECT-BASED VOUCHERS
HACSC has published a Request for Proposals (RFP) for PBVs and is currently accepting applications from property owners and developers.
The Housing Authority has also published the HACSC FY 2023-24 Project-Based Voucher Program Guidance for Owner/Developers. Applicants are encouraged to utilize the guide to familiarize themselves with the PBV program and applicable regulations.
Proposals for PBVs may be submitted at any time during the year. All proposals will be scored against the written criteria established by the HACSC Board of Commissioners and posted on the HACSC webpage.
PROJECTS UTILIZING PROJECT-BASED VOUCHERS
HACSC has a significant number of PBVs already dedicated to housing units throughout Santa Cruz County and San Benito County, with many more conditionally committed to projects that are under development.
WAITING LIST AND ELIGIBILITY
In most cases, the PBV Program utilizes the same waiting list as the tenant-based Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program. However, some PBV units may have site-based waiting lists. Click this link to view all site-based waiting lists. If the PBV units are not filled through either of these processes, they are offered based on referrals from a qualified service provider or from the local homeless Continuum of Care’s Coordinated Entry System. Existing HCV holders may transfer into a PBV unit in developments that utilize a combined waiting list.
When a PBV unit becomes available, the Housing Authority will send a letter to HCV holders that are searching for housing or to the top families on the HCV Waiting List. The letter will instruct interested families to contact the property owner directly. Families on the HCV Waiting List who reject an offer of a PBV unit or who are rejected by the owner will not be penalized. Families are not required to accept the offer of a PBV unit and they will retain the same position on the HCV Waiting List. However, families on a site-based waiting list that are determined to be ineligible, decline the unit, or fail to respond to a mailing, will be removed from that site-based waiting list.
The eligibility and screening policies under the tenant-based HCV Program also apply to the PBV Program. Please note that the property owner may establish their own admission standards, which may be stricter than the eligibility requirements of the PBV Program.
SPECIAL PROGRAM RULES
In many ways, the PBV Program operates like the tenant-based HCV Program. Under both programs, the assisted family pays a portion of their income toward rent and the Housing Authority pays some or all of the remaining balance directly to the property owner on the family’s behalf. However, there are some rules that differ slightly in the PBV Program. This list below is not comprehensive and is only intended to highlight the biggest differences between the two programs:
- In the HCV Program, tenants pay between 30% and 40% of their income toward rent at the time of moving into a unit, and may pay even more if the landlord increases the rent later. In the PBV Program, tenants only pay 30% of their income toward rent.
- In the HCV Program, the voucher tied to the family, so families can move to any eligible unit in the community and receive assistance. In the PBV program, the voucher is tied to the unit, so families must live in that specific unit to receive the assistance. There are restrictions for how long a family must live in the PBV unit before they can move with continued rental assistance.