Section 8 – Housing Choice Voucher Program
The housing choice voucher program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments.
Upon accepting contractual administrative authority over the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program from the Town of Southampton (the Public Housing Agency designed by HUD), the TSHA streamlined and enhanced procedures to increase efficiency while reducing spending. For example, our first objective was to reduce the number of staff for the HCV Program. Daily operations that were previously completed by seven employees when the program was administered by the Town are now accomplished with three dedicated staff members. In addition, the TSHA recently implemented electronic rent payments to landlords participating in the HCV Program, in order to streamline and expedite the receipt of rental payments. This initiative has translated into program cost savings as well as increased landlord satisfaction.
TSHA has set a goal to increase rental units throughout our town, hamlets, and villages in order to reduce the disproportionate number of port-outs to alternative jurisdictions and increase revenue. We began this effort by first educating the community and potential landlords on the facts vs. myths of the HCV program, widely known as “Section 8”. Most recently, TSHA posted an article in a local publication, and distributed a questionnaire throughout the various Hamlets and Villages, soliciting the community on their perceived understanding of the Section 8 program, and why homeowners with rentals not on the program decline to participate. The objective was to determine the opposition in order to develop the most effective system of educating the misinformed. The responses were overwhelming, but not surprising. Complaints range from strict and unreasonable inspections, lower than market payment standards, and landlord payment turn-around time.
Furthermore, the TSHA has reached out to local Citizens Advisory Committees (CAC) and Community Civic organizations, to engage the community in an open forum, and begin the dialog on making the program more understood.
Southampton Town is well known for its elevated cost of living, specifically, housing cost. Rental units are at above average cost, and the lack of affordable units has become an epidemic. The TSHA has taken the position that it is necessary to develop more affordable rental housing units.
Additionally, our goal is to introduce more economic stability opportunities within Southampton Township. For example we are exploring Federal programs such as the Family Self Sufficiency Program (FSS) and the Voucher Homeownership Program (VHP). Both of these programs work in conjunction with HCV/Section 8 program participants. A case management model is used to promote upward mobility. As part of the FSS and VHP programs, participants are encouraged with moral support and resources to go back to school, which opens the opportunity to obtain better employment and to work on repairing their finances. The goal is to promote education and sustainable survival with some of our most vulnerable populations. It is our belief that the key to any good Housing Authority is not only what you build in the community, but how you contributed to building a community. It starts by educating our constituents, participants and residents while providing ample opportunity to grow within our “hometown”.