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Housing program definitions

Development funding programs Rental assistance programs

Tenant-based rental assistance:

Project-based rental assistance:

                                                                                     Jump to glossary of housing acronyms


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the federal agency responsible for:

  • Creating and funding most affordable housing policy and programs
  • Helping improve and develop local communities
  • Enforcing fair housing laws

HUD's annual budget provides funding for most of the programs described on this page.  Depending on the program, HUD directs its funding to state governments; non-profit or private housing developers; Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) or other housing agencies.  Because housing programs are administered by a variety of agencies, they have different income and eligibility rules and different application and program regulations.

Rental housing assistance available to low-income families and individuals can come in one of two models:

  • Project-based assistance; or
  • Tenant-based assistance

With project-based assistance, the rental subsidy is assigned to a specific housing unit, and any eligible household who moves into that unit will receive assistance to cover the portion of the rent that it cannot otherwise afford. Housing with project-based assistance is often built or developed with the purpose of accepting low-income tenants specifically.

Tenant-based assistance is a rental subsidy that moves with a household into any qualifying housing within a certain area. The housing can be — and is often — private housing that may not have been built or developed with the intention of accepting solely low-income tenants, but if the quality and cost of the unit falls within a certain range, then it may qualify.

HUD has created many programs that are based on these two core concepts, and has expanded them to include special programs for designated populations such as families trying to reunite with their children, people with disabilities, people who are homeless, and people who are elderly. Below are short descriptions of some of the most popular rental housing assistance programs available in Vermont.

Each program is for individuals and/or families who are low-income. This can be defined based on a variety of standards but usually is related to the Area Median Income (AMI). Eligible households for each program may be limited to those earning just 30% of the AMI, 50% of the AMI, or up to 80% of AMI. For more information on specific income eligibility as well as what assistance may be available, contact the agency listed within each description or the property manager of the specific development.

Development funding programs

Developers of affordable rental housing will often access a variety of federal, state, and local housing programs in order to raise enough money to build a project. Below is a list of programs that could be used to develop affordable housing.

Community Development Block Grant
The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program provides annual grants on a formula basis to many different types of grantees. In Vermont, the City of Burlington gets its own CDBG funding from HUD and the State gets a separate allocation to cover the rest of the state outside of the greater Burlington area. CDBG funds may be used for activities including, but are not limited to: acquisition of property; relocation and demolition; rehabilitation of residential and non-residential structures; and activities relating to energy conservation and renewable energy resources. For more information on Community Development Block Grant, go to HUD's website or contact the property manager directly.
Home Program
The HOME Program can be used in: developing rental housing, tenant-based rental assistance, homeownership activities, and homeowner repair. The projects listed in the DoARH have received HOME funding to develop rental housing. This housing must adhere to certain limits that HUD has outlined. There are limits on the amount of income a tenant in a HOME-funded unit can earn, as well as limits on the rent that can be charged for a unit. The HOME program is administered through the City of Burlington for the Greater Burlington Area, and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board administers the program for the rest of the state. For more information on the HOME program, go to HUD's website or contact the property manager directly.
Housing for the Elderly
There are many housing options for people who are elderly, commonly defined as someone over the age of 62. The Section 202 Housing Program for the Elderly is specifically for the elderly and provides affordable housing for people who are over the age of 62. HUD provides long-term direct loans to private, non-profit sponsors who build, buy, or rehabilitate a housing project and then accept elderly housing tenants. Tenants of these buildings pay approximately 30 percent of their adjusted income for rent. For more information on Housing for the Elderly, visit HUD's website.

Sometimes if the person over 62 also happens to have a disability, then they can also qualify for housing designed for people with disabilities, which will include many accessible units. HUD also provides general housing information for senior citizens that covers a variety of programs and resources.

Housing for People with Disabilities
There are several affordable housing options for low-income people with disabilities who are low-income. There are specific programs designed for people with disabilities and their families. The Section 811 Housing Program for People with Disabilities provides funding for non-profit organizations interested in building, buying, or rehabilitating a housing development for adults who have a disability. HUD provides long-term direct loans to the non-profit and residents of the housing pay approximately 30 percent of their adjusted income for rent. For more information: contact the management agent of the 811 property directly or read more about Housing for People with Disabilities on HUD's website.
Other projects, not specifically targeted to people with disabilities may be designated as accessible units which indicate that the apartments are designed to be barrier free. (It should be noted that the barrier free design will vary significantly from unit to unit and may not be compliant with current codes.) For more information on specific accessible units contact the management agent of the project directly.
Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS
There are several programs that are available for families and individuals where the head of the household or a spouse is living with HIV/AIDS. People with HIV/AIDS are eligible for any HUD housing program designed for people with disabilities so Section 811 or other similar programs are available. For information on other housing programs that someone with HIV/AIDS may be eligible for, go to HUD's website.
Also, the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) program is a HUD administered program specifically for the specific needs of persons living with HIV/AIDS and their families. HOPWA makes grants to local communities, states, and nonprofit organizations for projects that benefit low-income persons medically diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and their families. HOPWA funds are awarded as grants from one of three programs. To find out more about the specifics, go to HUD's HOPWA web page. For more information about a specific project, contact the management agent directly.
Low Income Housing Tax Credit
The Housing Credit was designed by Congress to assist in the creation and preservation of affordable rental housing for low-income households. It is currently the most used funding source for developers creating housing for low-income households. It provides a reduction in federal tax liability over a 10-year period for owners of qualifying rental housing who agree to conform to certain operating restrictions for at least 15 years. This program is not administered by HUD but instead is run through the Internal Revenue Service. For more information: Contact the management agent of a specific tax credit project or read more about the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. The Vermont Housing Finance Agency is the state administering agency for this housing program, to read more about Vermont-specific program information, go to VHFA's website.
FHLB's Affordable Housing Program
The Affordable Housing Program (AHP) is locally awarded by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston to address, in partnership with member institutions, the affordable-housing needs of communities across New England. Ten percent of the Bank's net earnings funds the program, which awards grants and low-interest advances, or loans, through member institutions. The Bank's member institutions work with local housing organizations to apply for funds to support initiatives that serve very low- to moderate-income households in their communities. The actual terms are determined by the member financial-institution applicant, based on the specific needs of the development. For more information: Contact the management agent of a specific AHP project or go to the FHLB of Boston's AHP website.
Public Housing
Public Housing is operated by local PHAs who develop, own, and manage projects for lower income individuals and families. Households are eligible if they earn less than 80% of the Area Median Income. These housing projects are publicly owned, and tenants who live there pay approximately 30 percent of their adjusted income for rent and the public assistance covers the rest of the cost. For more information: Contact the management agent of a specific Public Housing project; contact your local PHA; or read more about the Public Housing project at HUD's website.
RD Section 515 Program
The Rural Rental Housing Program, also called the Section 515 program, provides low-interest loans to finance affordable multifamily housing or congregate housing for families and people who are elderly or disabled who are low-income. Section 515 loans can be used to purchase, construct, or rehabilitate housing. Loans are available for up to 30 years with only a one percent interest rate, which helps keep the rents affordable. Funds are awarded competitively by the Office of Rural Development to interested housing developers including individuals; partnerships; state and local agencies; and for-profit and non-profit organizations. For more information: Contact the management agent of a specific Section 515 project or go to Vermont's Rural Development description of the 515 program.
Rental Assistance for People Who Are Homeless
There are several programs available to people who are at risk of homelessness, homeless, or in other housing crisis situations. The programs available can be either tenant-based or project based rental assistance, and can sometimes include supportive services that are helpful to tenants who need assistance to secure housing, employment, or other life skills. To learn more about the resources available through both the State of Vermont and the federal government to help individuals and families who are homeless, contact the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) if you're in Chittenden County, or outside of Chittenden County contact the Office of Economic Opportunity. Learn more about HUD's homeless programs.
Vermont Housing & Conservation Board Funding
VHCB funds the acquisition, rehabilitation and construction of affordable housing by nonprofit housing organizations. Affordable housing projects eligible for funding include rental housing, rental and ownership coops, mobile home parks, single family homes, shared elderly housing, single room occupancy housing, and group homes. VHCB funds help to leverage federal and private funds to develop housing to serve lower income households and individuals with special needs. VHCB offers a loan and grant program, feasibility funding, and other programs to support affordable home ownership. For more information on the funding offered through VHCB, go to the VHCB website or for specific information on the rental restrictions of a VHCB-funded property, contact the property manager directly.
Vermont Housing Finance Agency Loan
VHFA offers low interest construction and permanent mortgage financing for the development and preservation of affordable rental housing. Specific requirements regarding rent restrictions and qualifying household income may vary with the funding source. However, all developments must serve at least 51% low- and moderate-income Vermonters. Funds usually come from a number of sources including: proceeds from the sale of tax-exempt or taxable bonds; Federal Home Loan Bank non-member advances; pension fund mortgage pools; and VHFA reserves. For more information on the funding offered through VHFA, go to the VHFA website or for specific information on the rental restrictions of a VHFA-financed property, contact the property manager directly.

Project-based rental assistance

There are several housing programs that offer project-based rental assistance to individuals and families who are low-income. These programs have a variety of income eligibility requirements and offer different formats of assistance. Some housing has been built that can offer assistance based on a household's adjusted income so that it only has to contribute 30 percent of its income towards rent and utilities. Other housing is designed so that rents are lower than other market-rate apartments in an effort to provide affordable options. For more information on the specific programs, read below:

Rural Development Rental Assistance
Rental Assistance is available in some rural housing developments that were built with Rural Development (RD) Section 515 funding. The RD 515 program is not administered through HUD and is instead run through the US Department of Agriculture. The rental subsidy may be for all or some of the units in the Section 515 development. A household receiving rental assistance pays approximately 30 percent of its adjusted income for rent. For more information: contact the management agent of the RD property directly or read more about the Rural Development Rental Assistance program on Vermont's RD website.
Section 236
The Section 236 program was active from the early 1960s through the early 1970s. It was designed to produce housing affordable by families with incomes above the public housing income limits. Almost all Section 236 projects now have project-based rental assistance assigned to them so that tenants don't have to pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing costs. Read about how rents are calculated for Section 236 funded properties (24kb; PDF). For more information contact the property manager directly.
Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation Program
Under the Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation Program, funding was provided to private housing owners to rehabilitate their properties to meet HUD's Housing Quality Standards. Once the construction was completed, subsidies were provided for those units. For more information: contact the management agent of the property directly or contact the Vermont State Housing Authority, which administers this program.
Section 8 New Construction/Substantial Rehabilitation
Under the Section 8 New Construction/Substantial Rehabilitation Program, funding allowed housing developers to build new housing specifically reserved for low-income tenants. This funding could also be used to rehabilitate a building in need of repair or convert a building to housing. Housing units that were created through this program are given project-based rental subsidies that stay with the apartments they support. The income eligibility limits vary from county to county. For more information: Contact the project manager of the property directly.
Section 8 Project-Based Assistance
Project-based vouchers are a component of a public housing agencies (PHAs) housing choice voucher program. A PHA can attach a portion of its voucher assistance to specific housing units if the owner agrees to either rehabilitate or construct the units, or the owner agrees to set-aside a portion of the units in an existing development. PHAs refer families, who have already applied to a PHA for housing choice vouchers and are on the PHA's waiting list, to properties that have project-based voucher assistance when units become vacant. The PHA pays the owner the difference between 30 percent of family income and the gross rent for the unit. Read about how rents are calculated for this program. For more information on Section 8 Project-Based Assistance, go to HUD's website or contact the property manager directly.

Market rate units

Affordable housing development is best supported when there is a mix of incomes from tenants living in a property. To achieve this goal, some units may be subsidized through a federal, state, or local housing program, while other units in the same building or complex may be available to tenants regardless of their income, and with no restrictions on the rent asked or paid. These are referred to as "market rate units."

Tenant-based rental assistance

Housing Choice Voucher program

The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program is a new combination of two programs that were called the Section 8 certificate and the Section 8 voucher programs. Under the Section 8 HCV program, a family or individual can apply to a Public Housing Authority (PHA) for rental assistance (called a "voucher") that would enable them to afford a privately-owned apartment of their choice within the PHA's jurisdiction. The vouchers are usually tenant-based and therefore if a household chooses to move after a period of time, they may do so without losing their assistance. Households pay approximately 30 percent — and no more than 40 percent — of their adjusted income for rent and utilities, and the PHA pays the balance of the rent directly to the owner.

Eligibility for the Section 8 HCV program is limited to applicants with incomes below 50% of the Area Median Income, although most of the vouchers assist households earning much less than that. Households receiving a voucher from a PHA must locate a unit that meets HUD's Housing Quality Standards, are within the PHA's jurisdiction, and has reasonable rent by local market standards.

In addition to its conventional Section 8 vouchers for any low-income household, PHAs may have applied to HUD for additional HCV vouchers targeted to a specific population. These include:

Family Unification Vouchers
These are regular HCVs that are used specifically to promote the reunification of families by providing rental assistance for whom the lack of adequate housing is a primary factor in:
  1. The imminent placement of the family's child, or children, in out-of-home care; or
  2. The delay in the discharge of the child, or children, to the family from out-of-home care

For more information about Family Unification Vouchers, contact VSHARead more about Family Unification Vouchers at the HUD site.

Mainstream Vouchers
Mainstream vouchers are HCVs but are specifically available to households where the head of household or spouse has a disability. The Burlington Housing AuthorityVermont State Housing Authority, and Winooski Housing Authority are the only PHAs in Vermont administering these vouchers. Read more about Mainstream Vouchers at the HUD site.
"Designated" and "Certain Development" Housing Vouchers
Households where an adult member is under 62 and disabled may apply for these HCVs that are available through certain PHAs. The Burlington Housing Authority is the only PHA in Vermont administering these vouchers. Read more about Designated Housing Vouchers and read more about Certain Development Housing Vouchers at the HUD site.
Welfare to Work Vouchers
These HCVs are specifically for families who are either receiving federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF, previously known as Welfare), are eligible to receive TANF, or have received TANF assistance in the past 2 years. The vouchers are targeted to families who have a critical need for housing in order to obtain or retain viable employment. Read more about Welfare to Work Vouchers at the HUD site.