Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) progeam in the Twin Cities Metro Area

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) initiated the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program in order to achieve social equity through public housing. The program is funded by the HUD and administered by the local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs). The main objective is to assist the low-income families to afford decent and hygienic homes in the private market.


The public housing agencies in Minnesota and the Twin City Metro Area have received substantial amount of grants from HUD for the voucher program. About 5.7% of the total funding for the program was granted to Minnesota in the 2010 fiscal year (US Department of Commerce, 2011). Currently, there are 12 PHAs in the Twin Cities Area is actively involved in the program to assist the low-income families.
Recently, the major issue is that the funding for the Housing Choice Voucher has been considerably reduced because of the economic recession and the latest sequestration from the US Congress. The PHAs in the 7 counties of the Twin Cities area decided to tighten their belts or hold on new Section 8 vouchers due to the fear of sequestration. In case of the Metropolitan Council’s HRA announced that it will serve 500 fewer families in 2013. The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) has not reopened the waiting list since 2008. The authority stopped issuing replacement vouchers since January 2012, except for people who already had been approved (2013).  Also, Saint Paul PHA has 7,500 families on the waiting list and none of them will receive the voucher in this year. The Bloomington Housing and Redevelopment Authority stopped issuing replacement vouchers since the beginning of 2013.
An exemplary case is Louisville, Kentucky. The Louisville Metro Housing Authority (MHA) reduced reliance on federal funding. The authority structured the HCV program in a unique way from other public housing authorities with little to no cost or even with cost saving to the authority. Frist, the authority established and developed partnership with two non-profit organizations in order to aid the residents to achieve successful homeownership and economic security. Moreover, the MHA send housing inspectors to teach the residents about home repair and maintenance. Second, the authority requires the residents to open a non-federally funded Individual Development Account (IDA) to increase their own financial security and reduce the burden of the authority. Finally, the authority was able to less dependent on federal government reducing the administrative cost for staff training.
In conclusion, in order to increase the level of self-sufficiency of the PHAs in the Twin Cities area, first of all, effective public-private partnership can lower the level of dependency on federal grants while enhancing the agency’s ability to support the low-income residents. Secondly, encouraging local efforts such as IDA can also be an effective way to increase level of independence. Last, reducing administrative cost could be an effective way for the authorities to become more independent from the federal funding.

Brennan, M. & Lubell, J. (2012). More Than a Roof: Case Studies of Public Housing Agency Initiatives to Increase Residents’ Economic Security. Ideas for Housing Policy and Practice, Washington, D.C.: Center for Housing Policy
Furst, R. (2013, April 12). Federal rent subsidies vanish for many low-income Minnesotans. Star Tribune, Retrieved on May 14 from <>
Harris, M. (2013, April 15) After six years, she finally got Section 8 housing- and then lost it. MinnePost, Retrieved on May 14 from <>
HousingLink (2010) Section 8 Vouchers, Minneapolis, MN: Retrieved on May 14 from <>
U.S. Department of Commerce (2011) Federal Aid to States for Fiscal Year 2010, Washington D.C. Retrieved on May 14 from <>
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (2013) Housing Choice Voucher Fact Sheet, Washington D.C. Retrieved on May 14 from <>

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