Housing Choice Voucher - Participants

The Authority provides information to help our participants report family and income changes, contact staff, and find out more about our policies. 

To view all of our forms please visit the Resources & Forms page. You may filter by "Participants" to see all forms and documents related to this department.

Whether you are a new participant in the HCV program, a current participant who wants to move, or a property owner, it can be difficult to keep track of all the steps in the lease-up process! Below is a description of each step in the process, from applying to a specific unit (Request for Tenancy Approval submission) to the first assisted payment made to the property owner from the Authority (Housing Assistance Payment).

The Authority’s Lease Up Process for the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program

Step 1: Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA) Submission
When you have found a unit that you want to rent and the property owner is willing to participate in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, you or the landlord must request the Authority to approve the assisted tenancy. This is accomplished by submitting a Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA). The RTA contains important information about the rental unit selected by the family necessary for the Authority to determine whether to approve the assisted tenancy in this unit. The RTA must be submitted on or before the expiration date of the family’s voucher. 

Step 2: RTA Processing
Information in the RTA packet is reviewed to determine unit, property owner, and payee eligibility. The Authority reviews documents for proof of ownership, if debts are owed to any Public Housing Agency, property management agreement and/or authorized agent(s), direct deposit form and a voided check or letter from financial institution. New property owners must obtain approval and be issued a Vendor Number by the Authority prior to requesting an inspection!

Step 3: HQS Inspection
To provide decent, safe, and sanitary conditions in all assisted homes, the Authority conducts preliminary and annual inspections on all housing units participating in the HCV program to determine whether the unit meets HUD’s basic housing quality standards (HQS).

The Authority’s inspections team will contact the property owner to schedule an initial inspection. Inspections will include an assessment of the unit according to the federal housing quality standards.

The property owner will receive a letter and phone call with the confirmed date and time of the inspection. The unit must be unoccupied and move-in ready, unless the family is already living in the unit, and will lease in place. The inspection results will determine the next step in the lease up process:

  • If the unit does not pass the inspection, the property owner will be allowed 15 days to make repairs.
  • If the unit does not pass the re-inspection, the Authority will cancel the RTA for that unit/property.
  • If the unit passes the inspection, the Authority will finalize the rent and affordability of the unit. The family should not move in the unit without SFHA prior approval.

Step 4: Determining Rent and Affordability 
The Authority will determine whether the rent being charged for the unit is reasonable and whether the unit is affordable to the family. To do this, the Authority will review the rent requested by the property owner and compare it to comparable unassisted units in the building and/or neighborhood to ensure that the rent is reasonable. The Authority will then evaluate the family’s income to ensure they can afford the rent. To pass the affordability test, the family’s portion of rent and utilities may not exceed 40 percent of the family’s monthly adjusted income. If any adjustments need to be made to the rent, the Authority will contact the property owner. 

Step 5: HAP Letter
Once the rent amount is accepted by the property owner and the Authority, the Authority will produce a HAP letter and provide it to the property owner. The HAP letter contains information on the family, owner, unit, lease term, total rent, rent paid to owner by the Authority, and which utilities the owner is responsible for.

  • If the HAP letter offer is not accepted, the Authority will cancel the RTA for that unit.
  • If HAP letter offer is accepted, the Authority will coordinate the execution of the HAP contract.

Step 6: Lease Signing HAP Contract Execution 
After the unit passes inspection and the HAP letter is accepted, the family will sign a lease agreement and the HUD-required Tenancy Addendum with the property owner. Although the property owner will have their own lease and “house” rules, HUD’s Tenancy Addendum must be attached to the property owner’s lease to ensure that both parties adhere to the HCV program rules.
The property owner is required to execute a lease, in the form and manner used to execute leases with non-assisted (non-HCV) families. The lease will be reviewed by Authority. The Authority will execute the HAP contract with the property owner after obtaining a copy of the lease.

Step 7: HAP Payment 
Once the HAP contract has been executed, the family may move into the unit and Housing Assistance Payments will be issued by the Authority. Housing Assistance Payments for the first month shall be prorated for a partial month based on the move-in date. 

Applicants and program participants have the right to disagree with, ask questions about, and appeal certain decisions from the Authority that may adversely affect them. The process for applicant appeals of the Authority’s decisions is called an “informal review.” For program participants, the appeal process is called an “informal hearing.” If you are an applicant or a participant, you may request an informal review or hearing by following the below procedures. 

Informal Reviews for Applicants 

What can I request an Informal Review for?
You can request an informal review of a decision of denial of assistance. Denial of assistance may include any or all of the following: 

  • Denying listing on the Authority waiting list 
  • Denying or withdrawing a voucher 
  • Refusing to enter into a HAP contract or approve a lease 
  • Refusing to process or provide assistance under portability procedures
  • Denial of assistance based on an unfavorable history that may be the result of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.    

How do I request an Informal Review?
You must make a request for an informal review in writing and it must be received by the Authority either in person or by first class mail no later than 15 calendar days from the date on the Authority’s denial of assistance. The Authority must respond to the informal review or hearing request within 15 calendar days of receipt of your request.

Informal Hearings for Program Participants 

What can I request an Informal Hearing for?
You can request an informal hearing for: 

  • A determination of the family’s annual or adjusted income that is used to determine your portion of the rent paid 
  • A determination of the appropriate utility allowance (if any) for tenant-paid utilities from the Authority’s utility allowance schedule 
  • A determination of the family’s voucher size under the Authority’s subsidy standards 
  • A determination to terminate assistance for a participant family because of the family’s actions or failure to act 
  • A determination to terminate assistance because the participant has been absent from the assisted unit for longer than 180 days under the Authority’s policy 
  • A determination to terminate a family’s Family Self Sufficiency contract, withhold supportive services, or propose forfeiture of the family’s escrow account 
  • Denial of a Reasonable Accommodation

How do I request an Informal Hearing? 
A request for an informal hearing must be made in writing and must be received by the Authority either in person or by first class mail, no later than 15 calendar days from the date of the correspondence initiating the request for a hearing (for example, from the date of a denial of reasonable accommodation). The Authority must schedule and send written notice of the informal hearing within 15 calendar days of receipt of your request. 

The Authority will make an initial attempt to determine which dates and times are available to you, your representative, and Authority staff. If you do not respond within 72 hours of the initial correspondence (phone call or e-mail) then the Authority will schedule the date and time of the hearing and provide this confirmation to you.

Who can attend my Informal Hearing?
In addition to you, the participant, hearings may be attended by a hearing officer and the following applicable persons:

  • An Authority representative(s) and any witnesses for the Authority 
  • Any witnesses for you, the participant
  • Your counsel or other representative 
  • Any other person approved by the Authority as a reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability

More information on the Authority’s Informal Review and Informal Hearing processes can be found in the Authority’s Administrative Plan on the Authority’s website here.

What is a reasonable accommodation?
If you or anyone in your family is a person with disabilities and you require a specific accommodation to fully use our programs and services, you can request a reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation could include: 

  • TDD or TTY Devices
  • Conducting home visits. 
  • Assistance to persons with limited written comprehension.
  • Time extensions for locating a unit when necessary, because of lack of availability of accessible units or special challenges of the family seeking the unit.
  • Allowing a PHA approved live-in aide to reside in the unit if that person is determined to be essential to the care of a person with disabilities, is not obligated for the support of the person with disabilities, and would not be otherwise living in the unit.
  • Providing large print forms.
  • Allowing a PHA to approve the leasing of a unit owned by a prohibited relative 
  • Granting a larger bedroom size if needed for the presence of medical equipment

For your reasonable accommodation to be approved, there must be an identifiable relationship, or connection, between the requested accommodation and your disability. The Authority may deny your request if it cannot verify that there is a disability-related need for the accommodation or if it poses an undue financial and administrative burden. If your request is denied, the Authority will consider the availability of alternative accommodations that would effectively meet your disability-related needs. Family members, service providers, and other advocates may also make requests on your behalf.

How do I make a request for reasonable accommodation?
You should make its request in writing using the Authority’s Reasonable Accommodation Request Form found here in the following languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese. However, the Authority will consider the accommodation any time you indicate that an accommodation is needed whether or not a formal written request is submitted.

If you need help in filling out a Reasonable Accommodation Request Form, or if you want to give us your request in some other way, we will help you. 

If your disability and the need for the accommodation is not known or obvious, the Authority will request third-party verification that the accommodation is necessary because of your disability. Therefore, we suggest that along with the Request Form, please also submit a third-party verification of your disability, such as a Care Provider Verification Form, which is attached to the Reasonable Accommodation Request Form, a letter from or the contact information of a doctor, other medical professional, non-medical service agency, or another reliable third-party who is in a position to know about your disability.

How long will it take to process a request of reasonable accommodation?
We will make a decision as soon as possible, at least within thirty (30) days from receipt of the request, unless you agree to an extension of time. We will let you know if we need more information or verification forms from you or if we would like to discuss other ways of meeting your needs. If we turn down your request, we will explain the reasons, and you can give us additional information if you think that will help.

Emergency Housing Voucher (EHV)
The EHV program is a voucher program funded through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). ARPA was signed into law on March 11, 2021 and has provided approximately 70,000 EHVs for eligible public housing agencies around the United States. The Housing Authority of the City and County of San Francisco (Authority) was allocated 906 EHVs.

To be eligible for an EHV, individuals or families must meet at least one of the following four requirements:

  1. Experiencing homelessness – For example, you are unsheltered, living on the street, in a vehicle, or in other places not meant for people to live.
  2. At risk of homelessness – For example, you are couch-surfing or you recently exited a temporary rental assistance program and cannot maintain housing.
  3. Fleeing, or attempting to flee, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking. 
  4. Recently homeless or have a high risk of housing instability – For example, you are currently housed through a rental assistance housing program and are at risk of losing that housing.

These vouchers are designed to lease units on the private market, and the Authority will cover a portion of the rent based on the participant’s income.

The program requires a partnership with the Continuum of Care (CoC) and/or other organizations for direct referrals. The CoC determines whether the individual or family qualifies under one of the four eligibility categories mentioned above. If eligible, the CoC refers the family to the Authority. Upon receipt of the referral, the Authority makes a determination of eligibility to receive housing assistance. 

Family Unification Program (FUP)
FUP is a Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. FUP provides rental assistance for families whose lack of adequate housing is a primary factor in the placement of their children in out-of-home care or in the delay of their children returning home. The Authority administers the program in partnership with the Human Services Agency of the City and County of San Francisco (HSA). HSA refers FUP-eligible families to the Authority and provides case management and supportive services before and after the family is housed while the Authority administers FUP rental assistance.

To be eligible for the program, families must meet both HCV program eligibility requirements AND be referred to the Authority by HSA. Once HSA makes the referral, the Authority determines whether the family or youth meets HCV program eligibility requirements. Upon determination that the family is eligible to receive housing assistance, a voucher will be issued to the family or emancipated youth. Supportive services must be provided by HSA to FUP youths for the entire 18 months in which the youths participate in the program.

Foster Youth to Independence (FYI)
The FYI initiative is another HCV program the Authority administers in partnership with HSA. Eligible youth must be at least 18 years and not more than 24 years of age (have not reached their 25th birthday) who left foster care, or will leave foster care within 90 days, in accordance with a transition plan described in Section 475(5)(H) of the Social Security Act, and are homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless at age 16 or older.

An FYI voucher issued provides housing assistance for the youth for a maximum of 36 months, at the same time HSA provides case management and supportive services to assist the young person on their path to self-sufficiency.

The Mainstream Voucher Program provides rental assistance to very low-income, disabled households. The Mainstream Program is a partnership between the Authority and the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. This program currently offers over 200 vouchers and is administered through the Authority’s HCV waitlist. The waiting list for the Mainstream program is currently closed.

In order to be eligible:

  • At least one person in the household must be non – elderly (18 to 61 years at the time of admission) and disabled AND
  • Homeless OR
  • Transitioning out of an institutional facility or other segregated setting OR
  • At serious risk of institutionalization

The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program provides permanent supportive housing for eligible homeless Veterans and their families. Homeless veterans are screened by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) and then referred to the Authority. The goal of the HUD-VASH program is to combine housing assistance with case management and clinical services provided by the VA at its medical centers to enable homeless and chronically homeless veterans and their families to re-integrate in the community, remain in stable housing, and lead healthy, productive lives. The VA provides these services for participating Veterans at VA medical centers, community-based outreach clinics, through VA contractors, or through other VA designated entities. Currently, the Authority has over 1,000 HUD-VASH Vouchers and partners with the San Francisco HUD-VASH Office. Individuals interested in the program should visit the VA Downtown Clinic at 401 3rd Street, Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM, and ask to speak to Housing Support or a social worker. They will be able give veterans an assessment and provide them with appropriate referrals, such as HUD-VASH and other transitional housing options. The VA Downtown Clinic also provides food, showers, access to laundry facilities, and the ability to connect with a medical or mental health provide to veterans in need.

Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program
Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) is an employment-based program designed to assist people living in San Francisco and participating in the Housing Choice Voucher program to become economically independent. With the support of local agencies, FSS offers participants case management services, referrals to educational and job training opportunities and ongoing support to aid families as they improve their quality of life while achieving family and personal goals.

How Does the FSS Program Work?

  • Families develop a 5-year plan with their FSS Coordinator. The plan is used as a guide to meet your educational, financial, personal, and career goals. The term of the FSS contract is generally 5 years, but it may be extended for another 2 years by the PHA for good cause. This is determined on a case-by-case basis.
  • Families receive assistance in meeting goals such as earning a high school diploma or college degree, finding a job, and improving credit scores.
  • As families report wage increases, their rent increases. For every dollar your rent goes up, a dollar with be placed in an interest-bearing escrow account maintained by SFHA until the end of the program. This oftentimes enables FSS Participants to accrue thousands of dollars in escrow credits.
  • Families who successfully complete their contract of participation are eligible to graduate and receive the funds saved in an escrow account.

Who Can Apply?

  • Section 8 and Public Housing residents that are the Head of Household and 18 years of age or older
  • Residents who are in good standing regarding their lease and residency
  • Residents who are motivated to be self-sufficient!

Benefits of Enrolling in the FSS Program:

  • Increase employment and wages
  • Increase assets and savings
  • Increase self-empowerment and confidence by achieving goals
  • Obtain employment and education consulting
  • Families have used the escrow savings for a down payment to purchase a home!

Homeownership Program
The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) homeownership program allows families that are assisted under the HCV program to use their voucher to buy a home and receive monthly assistance in meeting homeownership expenses. The HCV homeownership program is available only to families that have been admitted to the HCV program. To participate in the HCV homeownership program, the HCV family must meet specific income and employment requirements (the employment requirement does not apply to elderly and disabled families), be a first-time homeowner as defined in the regulation, attend and satisfactorily complete the pre-assistance homeownership and housing counseling program required by the Authority, and meet any additional eligibility requirements set by the Authority.

Eligibility Requirements: 

  • Have an HCV voucher
  • Owe no debts to the Authority (or another housing authority) 
  • Head of household or responsible adult must be employed for minimum of one year at 30 hrs./week (unless elderly/disabled) 
  • Must be first time homebuyer 
  • Must participate in HUD certified Homeownership Counseling Course 
  • Must attend a SFHA HCV Homeownership Orientation with staff 

Aspects for Potential Applicants to Consider:

  • SFHA does not participate in down payment assistance. This will be the responsibility of the participant.
  • Household must qualify and secure their own financing from a bank 
  • Strongly suggest securing a 30-year FIXED Rate loan rather than adjustable-rate mortgages 
  • Household would need to find a unit that they could afford (a below market rate unit) 
  • The assistance from the Authority lasts for a maximum of 15 years (except elderly/disabled) 

Yearly, the Authority must verify the income and composition of all individuals and families participating in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. This is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to ensure that each family is paying their appropriate share of the rent and is occupying the proper sized unit. 

Families are required to provide all the information the Authority needs to verify the participant’s income and composition. Even if nothing in a participant's situation has changed, they are still required to provide the requested information. 

Each year participants will be mailed a reexamination packet. Normally, the process starts four months in advance of the reexamination deadline. The participant must complete all documents in the packet and return them by the due date or bring them to the office appointment. After all required documents are received, the Authority will review and will notify the participant and property owner in writing of the updated rent portion and the effective date of the change.

There could be changes to the rent if:

  • A participant’s income or assets have changed.
  • The property owner has requested a rent increase.
  • Someone has moved in or out of the household, which affects the number of bedrooms you are eligible for.
  • The payment standard or utility allowances that the Authority uses to calculate the subsidy has changed.

We encourage all participants to plan ahead and keep income and asset information for everyone in their family on file to make it easier to submit the packet by the deadline. Failure to return paperwork or attend an annual reexamination appointment may result in the termination of assistance! If there is a crisis that causes a delay, contact our Customer Care Center.

Family circumstances may change between annual reexaminations. An interim reexamination is needed there is a change in household composition or when there is a change in the household’s income. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations permit the Authority to conduct interim reexaminations of income or family composition at any time. When an interim reexamination is conducted, only those factors that have changed are verified and adjusted. 

The family must notify the Authority of all changes in writing and provide all supporting documentation. The family is required to report all changes in family income and composition within 15 calendar days of the change with the exception of the birth, adoption, or court-awarded custody of a child which must be reported within 30 calendar days. Based on the type of change reported, the Authority will determine the documentation the family will be required to submit. The family must submit any required information or documents within 30 calendar days of receiving a request from the Authority. This timeframe may be extended for good cause with Authority approval. The family will be notified in writing if additional information is needed. After all required documents are received, the Authority will review and will notify the participant and property owner in writing of the updated rent portion and the effective date of the change. The Authority will accept required documentation through in-person, mail, fax or e-mail. Please find our Customer Care Center contact information here.

Is your wait list open?
The Housing Authority of the City and County of San Francisco (Authority) is opening its waitlist application process for studio units (two-person household maximum) in the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) Project-Based Voucher (PBV) program. The Authority will open waitlist applications to the public on 3/27/2023 starting at 8:00 AM and close applications on 03/29/2023 at 5:00 PM. Please visit our Waitlist page for more information.

The Housing Authority manages waitlists for all of our programs including Project Based Voucher, Housing Choice Voucher and Public Housing programs which open and close based on availability and other factors. For current information on status of open and closed wait lists, please refer here.

What are the current utility allowances for the HCV program?
You can find the current utility allowances for the HCV program here.

How can I find out about my waitlist status?
While we do not provide waitlist positions to applicants due to the ever-changing nature of the waitlist, we can confirm if applicants are active on the waitlist. Please contact our Customer Care Center to request a confirmation that you are active on our waitlist..

How much will my rent be in the Housing Choice Voucher Program?
Families in the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program will generally pay at least 30% of their monthly adjusted income toward rent, not to exceed 40% of monthly adjusted income in the first year of the lease. The total tenant payment is the highest of the following amounts:

  • 30%of the family’s monthly adjusted income 
  • 10% of the family’s monthly gross income 
  • A minimum rent of $25 

Your portion also depends on the rent of the unit you choose. If your rent is higher than the maximum subsidy the Authority can pay, you must pay the difference out of your own pocket. However, you are not allowed to rent a unit that requires you to pay more than 40% of your adjusted monthly income toward rent. If the rent is too high, you have to find another unit.

I want to move. Who should I contact?
If you are currently receiving assistance from the Authority and would like to move, please contact our Customer Care Center to begin the process. 

I have a voucher with another Housing Authority, and I want to move to San Francisco. Who do I contact?
If you have a voucher and want to move to San Francisco, the following steps must be taken:

  • Contact your current housing authority and let them know you want to move out of their jurisdiction. Your current housing authority is required to provide you with information regarding this – often referred to as portability. 
  • Once you have a new destination in mind, your current housing authority will gather documentation, which may include forms from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), family birth certificates, social security cards, IDs and income information, among other things, to complete your Portability Release Form. 
  • Next, your current housing authority will mail the necessary documents to the Housing Authority of the City and County of San Francisco (Authority).
  • Do not move until you have been issued a new voucher. You will lose your housing assistance if you move before being issued a new voucher!
  • You must check-in with the Authority before renting a unit. We will provide you with information necessary for renting a unit in San Francisco. Do not rent a unit until it has been approved our San Francisco team. If you rent a unit without approval, you may be responsible for the full rent and lose your Housing Choice Voucher assistance.

Is there anything else I should know before deciding to relocate to another Housing Authority?

  • The Payment Standard may be different. This may affect the amount the Authority can contribute toward your rent.
  • The Authority may change the bedroom size of your Voucher which also may affect your portion of rent.
  • You will be required to follow the rules of the Authority.