Another method of identifying housing units is by approaching Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) about providing commitments or set-asides of either rental subsidies or public housing units. In addition, through their administrative plans, the PHA could create a preference for child welfare-involved families that would give them priority on lists but not access to a “set-aside” of units.
Public Housing Authorities are quasi-public entities charged with creating affordable housing opportunities for low-income families and individuals. In most communities, PHAs are the largest source of affordable and low-income housing. PHAs provide affordable housing in two forms: a) public housing, which is typically low-income or mixed-income housing developments that are directly managed by PHAs, and b) a variety of federal rental assistance programs, the most well-known and significant of which is Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8 or HCV). Some HCVs carry special requirements to serve specific populations or provide services. One type of HCV that is especially relevant to child welfare supportive housing is Family Unification Program (FUP) Vouchers.
Communities seeking to implement child welfare supportive housing initiatives should approach their local Public Housing Authorities to engage them in a discussion about how they can partner to support families in need. There is often a connection between a program’s needs for affordable housing and a PHA’s needs for supportive services. Each county, city or metropolitan area may have one or more PHAs. In some instances, a City or municipal housing department functions as a PHA as the administrator of Section 8 and other vouchers. In addition, some State housing finance agencies also function as PHAs or administer Section 8 and other vouchers at the State level.
When approaching a Public Housing Authority, it is important to keep in mind that PHAs are often asked from many directions to provide special set-asides or commitments of public housing units or vouchers for new initiatives, including from programs that serve homeless populations. In addition, many are faced with long waiting lists with little to no new units or rental assistance vouchers to provide.
When engaging PHAs, communities should be certain to acknowledge these resource limitations and high demand, and that every unit or voucher set-aside for a new initiative is one less unit or voucher available for the general waiting list. Appeals should be made to PHA officials’ sense of interest and concern for the vulnerable families to be served and the resources that community partners can bring to the table to appeal to the PHA’s need for good voucher utilization rates and housing stability. Together, PHAs and their partners can (consistent with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s strategic plan), use housing as a platform for improved quality of life.