Nikki Waller, Director of Financial & Relational Development
For those on Housing Choice Vouchers and in Public Housing, it seems like you are penalized for trying to get ahead. By working and generating a higher income, you are threatened with the idea that you will lose the safety net of rental assistance if you make too much.
Even worse, what if you work hard to get off welfare and then something happens causing you to lose your job? Your family will be homeless and hungry.
I hear you, and so does Evansville Housing Authority (EHA). The EHA has a couple of programs available that may interest you.
Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS)
The goal of the FSS program is to help families feel comfortable with becoming self-sufficient. This program is voluntary and is available to those who receive a Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) or Project Based Voucher (public housing).
Okay, but what does it do?
“When your rent payment increases due to an increase in earned income, you will earn escrow. This is money that we put directly into a savings account that you will receive when you successfully graduate from the program”
Let me explain this.
Let’s say you begin receiving housing assistance when you aren’t working, so you receive 100% assistance from a HCV. Then, when you’re able to work again, you get a job and EHA says, “Okay, since you’re working you have to pay $50 towards your rent.”
EHA doesn’t want to make you choose between building wealth and having your rent paid on-time. They want to help you. Once you enroll in this program, they will then take that $50 they are no longer paying for your rent and put it into an account FOR YOU. But, this does come with some strings attached. They want you to participate in a goal-setting and education program.
“Participants must have a desire to become self-sufficient and a willingness to take the steps necessary to make it happen.”
You must maintain employment and be free of cash welfare (TANF) for at least 12 consecutive months. When you successfully complete your goals and graduate from the program, you will receive the money EHA has been putting away for you and you can use that to purchase an asset – such as a house or an education.
One participant enrolled in the program in 2012 and she received $11,746 that she used to buy her own home. She walked into home ownership with $11,746 in equity.
That, my friends, is a safety net.
Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Homeownership Program
Those who participate and graduate from FSS are eligible for the HCV Homeownership Program. This program permits eligible participants of HCV, including participants with portable vouchers, the option of purchasing a home with their HCV rather than renting.
You must be a first-time homeowner or have a family member who is a person with disabilities. Apart from elderly and disabled households, you must meet a minimum income requirement without counting income from “welfare assistance” sources and meet the employment criteria. There are a couple of other requirements too, but you’ll have to talk to EHA for those.
The minimum income requirement must be at least the gross annual income equal to Federal Minimum Wage times 2,000 hours (currently $14,500 per year).
In layman’s terms Your HCV will be paid to you as if you are your own landlord as long as you income qualify for Section 8.
Ready to take the steps to get off income assistance in welfare? Ready to build your own “safety net” through these programs?
Contact EHA today to get started on these programs. Those who qualify for these programs will also likely qualify for HOPE’s Down Payment Assistance Program as well. A HOPE housing counselor will help you access other programs available to you to help you obtain the most amount of equity possible.