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Jan. 29, 2023

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Vancouver House Authority raises Section 8 payment standards

Change will give low-income renters more options

By , Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith

Vancouver Housing Authority’s board of commissioners voted Thursday to raise payment standards for Housing Choice Vouchers, otherwise known as Section 8, which will give low-income renters more options when they search for a place to live.

The housing authority did not raise payment standards last year due to budget constraints. This time, the board voted unanimously to raise payment standards for studios up to three-bedroom rentals, essentially matching the current fair-market rents set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (Four- and five-bedroom payment standards remained the same because they were raised previously.)

“We’re catching up with a fairly big adjustment,” David Overbay, federal program policy manager at Vancouver Housing Authority, said in an interview with The Columbian. “It’s good news that we can afford it.”

For 2018, the housing authority budgeted about $22.6 million for housing assistance payments, its largest overall expense. In recent years these payments have become increasingly costly as the housing authority fills a widening gap between tenant contributions and the full rent amount. In response, the housing authority raised tenant contributions from 33 to 35 percent of their adjusted income.

The housing authority subtracts 35 percent of a tenant’s income from their payment standard, which varies based on the number of bedrooms. If rent and utilities cost more than the payment standard, the tenant has to cover the difference. Currently, 32 percent of Section 8 tenants pay more than 35 percent of their income toward rent and utilities, because their rent is higher than the payment standard.

VHA Housing Choice Vouchers

Old payment standards: 

Studio: $ 889  

1 bedroom: $990

2 bedroom:$1,167

3 bedroom: $1,700

4 bedroom: $2,343

5 bedroom: $2,694

New payment standards:

Studio: $1,040  

1 bedroom: $1,134

2 bedroom: $1,325

3 bedroom: $1,916

4 bedroom: $2,343

5 bedroom: $2,694

Raising the payment standards will “lower the percentage of people who have to pay more,” Overbay said.

However, Vancouver Housing Authority and surrounding housing authorities in Portland, Vancouver and Hillsboro, Ore., believe the federal government underestimated local rents. The housing authorities are taking part in a Washington State University study examining the rental market. Overbay said that study should be done in November.

Local housing authorities last commissioned WSU to do a market study in 2015 when they also believe the federal government had set fair-market rents too low. In that case, the Department of Housing and Urban Development agreed with the findings and raised fair-market rents.

Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith