Learning from Each Other: New Ideas for Managing the Section 8 Certificate and Voucher Programs
Harness new technologies. The Housing Authority of the County of Merced, California, has adapted the use of a modem to verify with the county human services department the income of Section 8 participants who are on welfare. As a result, the recertification process, which previously consumed 3 weeks, now takes only 1 week. The Housing Authority of Jefferson County, Kentucky, created a computer system to answer telephone queries 24 hours a day about applicants' status on the Section 8 waiting list, freeing one staff person for other duties.The Syracuse Housing Authority in New York developed an automated system that uses bar code technology to scan Housing Quality Standards information about Section 8 units into a hand-held computer. This system, which allows inspectors to upload inspection data from their hand-held computers into the housing authority's minicomputer at the end of the day, is expected to increase the number of inspections by 20 to 25 percent.
Build partnerships. Although program rules allow Section 8 recipients to use their rental assistance anywhere across the country, accommodating tenant moves even between neighboring cities and counties remains administratively complicated. Recognizing the similarity in their leasing and inspection procedures, three housing authorities in the Las Vegas area created a memorandum of understanding that makes it easier for Section 8 families to move anywhere among the three jurisdictions.
Strengthen landlord relations. Attracting new landlords to the Section 8 program and maintaining relationships with participating ones is critical to program growth and effectiveness. The Housing Authority of the City of Bremerton, Washington, has developed "Operation Outreach," which includes quarterly seminars and a newsletter for landlords, a direct deposit program for subsidy payments, and a landlord advisory committee to help inform the housing authority of landlord concerns.
Use volunteers. The Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County, Maryland, has recruited and trained 50 volunteers to act as case managers for the Family Self-Sufficiency program, allowing it to spread its dollars further.
This report offers housing authorities a wealth of new ideas for using Section 8 effectively to promote healthy, mixed-income neighborhoods and respond to the needs of participants and landlords.