The Union County Housing Authority is somewhat unique as a housing authority in that it doesn’t operate a Public Housing Program. Public Housing funds have been used by many housing authorities across the country to construct housing projects which concentrate low income families into small neighborhoods. Given the rural nature of Union County and the desire not to see concentrations of families, the Union County Housing Authority chose to meet lower income family housing needs by working through the private rental market.
The Union County Housing Authority receives funding from the federal Housing and Urban Development Department for approximately 499 families. Income eligible families (i.e. those making less than 50% of the area median income) who have passed a criminal background check are issued Housing Choice Vouchers. These families may use their voucher to rent an appropriately sized rental unit (within Fair Market Rent limits) of their choice in the private market if the landlord accepts them as a tenant. A lease is entered into between by the tenant and landlord. Simultaneously, the landlord enters a Housing Assistance Payments contract with the Housing Authority in which the Housing Authority agrees to pay a portion of the rent on the tenant’s behalf. The landlord also agrees to keep the apartment in compliance with the property maintenance codes. Apartment inspections are performed by the Central Keystone Council of Governments prior to the lease signing and annually prior to the lease recertification date.
Under the current difficult economic times, Housing Choice Vouchers are in high demand. There is a long period of time between when an applicant applies and when a voucher is issued. It’s interesting to note that annually approximately 25% of the participants leave the program because their income has increased above the income eligibility limits or they have moved in order to get a better paying job. Conversely, the program serves some families long term because they are elderly, handicapped, or don’t have the capacity to earn more.