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New HUD rules enable Voucher Holders to Use Vouchers in Higher-Rent Communities

Posted by Anthony Campisi on January 22nd 2018

After years of pressure from civil rights and affordable housing advocates and residents and nearly two years of on-again, off-again movement by the federal government, new regulations went into effect on Jan. 17 that enable families who receive rental assistance under the HUD Housing Choice Housing Program (HCVP) to live in neighbors with better housing, better schools, more job opportunities and less violent crime. The new rules are aimed at breaking the generational cycle of poverty and at preventing landlords from artificially boosting rents in low-income neighborhoods – pricing out many families who do not receive voucher assistance.

The new program, known as Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR), allows participating public housing authorities to provide greater rental assistance in ZIP codes with higher market rents –rather than simply averaging rents across entire counties or metropolitan areas. This will help low-income families bridge the financial gap and move into wealthier communities. The program will give families the opportunity to break through barriers that have made New Jersey one of the most racially segregated states.

The new regulations require 23 metropolitan areas across the country to use the new SAFMR system. In New Jersey, the Passaic-Bergen county area, the Ocean-Monmouth county area and the Camden, Gloucester, Salem and Burlington county area must adopt this program. In addition, any voucher managed by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs that is used in any of these counties must also provide rental assistance based upon the ZIP code in which the family will live.

Participating households in these counties can now look for housing that meets their family needs in neighborhoods closer to good schools and available jobs.

All families in the HCV program who live in these areas of the state have the right to use this program to move to a better neighborhood as soon as their current leases are up. But because the process could be time-consuming, families interested in moving should begin the process months in advance by locating a new home in a new neighborhood and applying to their housing authority to make the move.

The new regulations also give housing authorities leeway in how and when to make certain changes. It is important that all voucher recipients learn exactly what could happen with their rent payments over the next several years.

HUD regulations allow any other housing authority to adopt this system, and we will continue to work with our civil rights partners and grassroots communities to ensure these changes are adopted throughout New Jersey.

While the program is now in effect, HUD believes that some housing authorities will require time to change their procedures. HUD has set April 2018 as the deadline for the changes but residents should push their local authorities to make the change immediately.

HUD has published a detailed Notice describing this program and helping housing authorities put this program into practice: https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/PIH/documents/PIH-2018-01.pdf

HUD has also published the newly required Fair Market Rent for every zip code: https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/fmr/smallarea/index.html#2018_data

Click on Data and then: Small Area FMRs (*.xlsx, 2 MB) - This file contains all Small Area FMRs for each ZIP code plus 90% and 110% payment standard limits for each bedroom unit count SAFMR. Note that the website lists FMRs by zip code and by the number of bedrooms allowed by your voucher.