Expanded Choice Program FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

A Housing Choice Voucher, historically called “Section 8,” is a rental subsidy for low- income households in the United States. The Housing Choice Voucher Program is the largest federal subsidized housing program for low -income households in the US. State and regional authorities operate 2,500 voucher programs around the country. In New Haven, Elm City Communities, also known as the Housing Authority of the City of New Haven, operates the Housing Choice Voucher program.

The Housing Choice Voucher Program is not an entitlement program, and only about a quarter of families who qualify for the program actually receive a voucher. There are typically long wait lists for families who want to receive vouchers.

Families who receive vouchers search for housing on the private rental market. The voucher acts as a coupon, so families can find housing affordable to them, and they only pay a portion of the rent. Families only pay up to 30% of their income towards their housing costs (both rent and utilities). If the family has no income, the voucher will typically cover the whole cost of the rent and provide the family with a subsidy to pay utilities. Vouchers are subject to regional rental ceilings where the Public Housing Authority can pay only up to a certain amount for a unit based on the neighborhood, bedroom size, and amenities included in the unit.

Renting your property to a family with a voucher follows a very similar process as leasing to a family without a voucher. It includes a few extra steps to make sure you and the tenant will make a successful match.

We encourage property owners to screen voucher families the same way they would with any other applicant. You will want to consider, however, that the voucher will count towards a portion of the rent (if not all of it), so many property owners have different, more flexible income criteria for voucher holders.

After an applicant goes through your screening criteria, you turn in a packet of information to the Public Housing Authority called a Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA). This proves that you are the owner of the unit and lists the amenities included in the unit.

Once Elm City Communities has the RFTA, you and the Housing Authority must agree on the rent amount. The Housing Authority will look at comparable units in the area (based on amenities, size, and type of unit) to make sure that the rental amount requested is a fair price based on the market.

Lastly, there will be an inspection of the unit to make sure that it meets Housing Quality Standards (HQS). These standards were created to ensure that our federal tax dollars are not used to house families in units that are unsafe.

After the unit passes inspection, the tenant can sign the lease and pay their deposit. You sign an agreement with the Public Housing Authority called the Housing Assistance Payment Contact (HAP for short). The contract shows that you have agreed to receive the rental payment from the Housing Authority.

Each month, you receive the rent from the Public Housing Authority and the tenant. If the tenant’s income goes down, the Housing Authority will pay a larger portion of the rent so that the unit is always affordable for the tenant.

Inspections are typically conducted annually/biennially, so if the tenant wants to live in your unit for another year or two, an inspection will occur of the unit prior to the lease anniversary date.

Housing Authorities are subject to regional limits on how much the housing authority can pay based on the number of bedrooms the family qualifies for. The limit is called the Payment Standard, and in New Haven, the Payment Standard is dependent on the location of the unit.

Use the Address Locator Tool / to find the payment standard range for a property and see if it qualifies for the Expanded Choice Program. The search tool will also provide the user with the estimated rental price limit for that neighborhood. The numbers provide an estimated rental price a Housing Choice Voucher family with no income can afford.

Price limit by location for families with vouchers:

There are two important factors to keep in mind. First, families with higher incomes may choose to look above the established price limit because they can pay a larger portion of the rent. Second, although the price limit helps families figure out how much they can afford based on the location, the rental price agreed upon between the Public Housing Authority and the property owner must be similar in price to other comparable units in the area fair market rate. The Public Housing Authority will look at comparable units in the area (based on amenities, size, and type of unit) to make sure that the rental amount the property owner requests is a fair price based on the market.

Opportunity Areas are neighborhoods or communities in where children and families are expected to have the best opportunity to thrive. [Describe how the Opportunity Areas were defined for the program].

You can look at the Opportunity Areas using this link . 

Contact Tanya Chirsky at 203-498-8800 x 1147 or ecp@elmcitycommunities.org to learn more about the program and see if you qualify.

Your family might be eligible if you:

  • Have a Housing Choice Voucher issued by Elm City Communities or are an applicant on the waitlist 
  • Have at least one child who is under 18 years of age in your household 
  • Currently live outside of an Expanded Choice Program opportunity area or need assistance finding a unit that meets disability-related accommodations 

The Expanded Choice Program helps families with Housing Choice Vouchers find homes in Opportunity Areas in the City of New Haven and its surrounding region. If you think you are eligible to participate in the Expanded Choice Program, you may want to think about the following:

  • Are you willing to move? Would you consider moving to a new neighborhood in an Opportunity Area?
  • Do you have time to search for your housing in a new neighborhood or do you need to move very quickly? Families who are in need of immediate or emergency housing may not have enough time to benefit from the services provided through participation in the program.

Use the Address Locator Tool to look up if a property is in an Opportunity Area and qualifies for benefits as part of the Expanded Choice Program. The search tool will also provide an estimated rent range in that area based on the Housing Choice Voucher payment standards.

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