the advocacy monitor

Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Update from the NCIL Housing Subcommittee: Public Housing Agencies and the Section 8 Homeownership Program

For many people with disabilities, it can be very challenging to find housing, even when one has a Section 8 Voucher. Many housing options are not accessible, or out of reach with a rent that is too high for the voucher. There is another option that one doesn’t hear about often, the Section 8 Homeownership Program that assists with the purchase of a home using the Housing Choice Voucher.

The Homeownership Voucher Program was authorized in 1937, although the final rule was not issued until 2000! There were 15 Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) that participated in the pilot homeownership program that began in 1999.

The rule says a PHA may give assistance to an eligible household to buy their own homes, not just to rent. Homeownership can be a great choice for some people with disabilities, such as a person with environmental hypersensitivities or for other people who cannot be accommodated in available rental housing units due to their disabilities.

People who have had a voucher for at least a year can transfer their voucher to a different jurisdiction, and this can apply to the homeownership program, too. People could purchase a house in a different PHA’s jurisdiction, if it offers the Homeownership Voucher Program and is accepting new families.

Find out whether the Homeownership Program is offered in your area (Excel spreadsheet). If your PHA does not have a program, it may be possible to request that they offer homeownership assistance as a reasonable accommodation, if it can be demonstrated that housing available for rent is not accessible or usable by the family, and that an accommodation is necessary. For households where the head, spouse, or sole member is elderly or has a disability, the voucher is good for the entire term of the mortgage. For other households with a 30-year mortgage, the voucher would be available for a maximum of 15 years. It’s important to note that the PHA can only work with people who currently have vouchers or are on the waiting list. They can’t have a separate waiting list or preference for voucher applicants interested in homeownership.

If the PHAs in your area doesn’t have a homeownership program, consider advocating so they make that option available.