Virginia Very Low Income Housing Voucher Waiting Lists are Closed

SeaView Lofts apartments in Newport News

by James C. Sherlock

Some things don’t change that should.

Or don’t change fast enough to keep up with markets.

Which means they will fail.

From Virginia Housing’s discussion of the Housing Choice Voucher Program

The Housing Choice Voucher Program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to decent, safe, and affordable housing in the private market.

Housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, and allows you to find housing (single-family homes, townhouses, mobile homes, and apartments) that that [sic] fits your needs.

Or not.  From the Housing Choice Voucher Waiting List Portal

We are sorry, but none of Virginia Housing waiting lists are currently open.

That is the list for the entire Commonwealth.

The program is broken. So, what is going on?

This is not the first time I have written about this issue. One was bad. Another showed a promising innovation.

But for Virginia landlords, the light is not worth the candle. They do not sign up in sufficient numbers to fulfill demand. Not even close.

A review of the Resources for Landlords page provides a clue. Since it is a federal program, there are a lot of paperwork and inspection requirements, but that would not prove an issue if the prices were right.

The current prices paid are federal fair market rents. The effective date of those rents is listed as 10/1/2021.

Landlords make individual decisions about risk/reward. And clearly they won’t sign on in sufficient numbers to the program at those prices.

To get a feel for the Virginia rental housing market since October 2021, we need look no further than the Virginia Realtors Multifamily Market Report for Q1 2022.

Across Virginia, apartment vacancy rates have reached historically low levels and rents are increasing at double-digit rates.

The pace of new apartment construction has ramped up in many local markets, though deliveries have been slow since the middle of 2021. A growing renter population is expected to fuel a hot rental market in the year ahead.

Bottom line. Rates fixed 18 months ago. Hot rental market.

Those add up to a federal program promise unfulfillable in Virginia. It offers to assist:

very low-income families, low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to (find) decent, safe, and affordable housing in the private market.

It is the right program. Government housing has not worked. But rates simply cannot be 18 months old in a dynamic market. I will ask to interview the Virginia Housing leadership to see what ideas they may have.

The Virginia Housing Commission is holding its next meeting April 12. I have asked the Executive Director, Elizabeth Palen, to consider this matter for the agenda.

But it is a federal program administered by Virginia and Virginia local organizations.

Consider this.  All of the employees responsible for this program at the federal, state and local levels are getting paid, and no vouchers are going out the door.

Virginia has two U.S. Senators and eleven Representatives in the U.S. Congress.

A review of the Housing Choice Voucher program is worth their time. And ours.