Housing Assistance - Rental Assistance Program (RAP)
What are RAP certificates?
The Rental Assistance Program (RAP) is the major state-supported program for assisting very-low-income families to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. Participants find their own housing, including apartments, townhouses, and single-family homes. The participant is free to choose any private rental housing that meets the requirements of the program, as described below. RAP certificates are funded through the Department of Social Services (DSS) and are administered statewide by DSS and its agent, J. D’Amelia & Associates (JDA). JDA subcontracts operation of RAP to six local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) and one Community Action Agency in the state.
A family that is issued a RAP certificate is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of the family's choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program. This unit may include the family's present residence. Rental units must meet minimum standards of quality and safety as defined by the State of Connecticut, which has adopted the federal Housing Quality Standards (HQS) as established by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A housing subsidy is paid by JDA directly to the landlord on behalf of the participating family. The family pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.
Who is eligible?
Eligibility for a RAP certificate is determined based on the household's annual gross income and the state's definition of a family. Participation is limited to U. S. citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status. In general, the family's income may not exceed 50 percent of the annual median income (AMI) for the county or metropolitan area in which the family chooses to live. Connecticut has adopted the AMI levels published by HUD. These levels vary by location throughout the state.
During the application process, information on family composition, income, and assets is collected by the PHA. The PHA verifies this information and uses it to determine the family's eligibility and the amount of their housing assistance payment. If the PHA determines that a family is eligible, the PHA will place the family on a waiting list, unless it is able to assist them immediately. Once a family is chosen from the waiting list, the PHA will contact them and issue them a certificate.
How does a family apply?
The Department of Social Services will re-open the waiting list to accept applications when most people on the waiting list have been served. When the list is about to be opened, a notice and pre-application form will be placed in local newspapers as well as on the DSS web-site. The wait list is currently closed.
The waiting list -- what is it and how does it affect me?
Because the demand for housing assistance always exceeds the limited funds available, long waiting periods are common. For example, DSS closes the waiting list when more families are on the list than can be assisted in the near future.
RAP Certificates - How do they function?
The Rental Assistance Program leaves the choice of housing to the individual family. A very-low-income family selected by JDA to participate is encouraged to consider several housing choices to secure the best housing for its needs. A certificate holder is advised of the unit size for which their family is eligible, based on family size and composition. The housing unit selected by the family must meet an acceptable level of quality and safety before the PHA can approve the unit. When the certificate holder finds a unit that she or he wishes to occupy and reaches an agreement with the landlord over the rental agreement terms, the PHA must inspect the dwelling and determine that it meets housing quality standards.
The PHA determines a maximum allowable rent (MAR). The MAR is the amount generally needed to rent a moderately-priced dwelling unit in the local housing market. The MAR is used to calculate the amount of housing assistance a family may receive. The MAR does not limit the amount of rent a landlord may charge, but it does limit the amount of rent a tenant may pay. A family receiving a certificate can select a unit with a rent that does not exceed the MAR.
The rent subsidy
The PHA calculates the maximum amount of housing assistance which a family may receive. A family pays 40 percent of its monthly income on rent and utilities, while elderly and disabled families pay 30 percent of their monthly income.
Can a family move and continue to receive housing choice voucher assistance?
A family's housing needs change over time with changes in family size, job locations, and for other reasons. RAP is designed to allow families to move without the loss of housing assistance. Moves are allowed as long as the family notifies the PHA ahead of time, terminates its existing rental agreement within the rental agreement requirements, and finds acceptable alternate housing. Under RAP, new certificate-holders may choose a unit anywhere in Connecticut.
Roles - the tenant, the landlord, the housing agency, and DSS
Once a PHA approves an eligible family's housing unit, the family and the landlord sign a rental agreement. At the same time, the landlord and the PHA sign a housing assistance payments (HAP) contract that runs for the same term as the rental agreement. This means that everyone, the tenant, the landlord and the PHA, has duties and tasks under the RAP. Those duties and tasks are:
• Tenant's Obligations: When a family selects a housing unit, and the PHA approves the unit and rental agreement, the family signs a rental agreement with the landlord for at least one year. The tenant may be required to pay a security deposit to the landlord. RAP does not pay security deposits. After the first year, the landlord may initiate a new rental agreement or allow the family to remain in the unit on a month-to-month basis. When the family is settled in a new home, the family is expected to comply with the rental agreement and the RAP requirements, pay its share of rent on time, maintain the unit in good condition, and notify the PHA of any changes in household income or family composition.
• Landlord's Obligations: The role of the landlord in the RAP is to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing to a tenant at a reasonable rent. The dwelling unit must pass the program's Housing Quality Standards and be maintained up to those standards as long as the owner receives housing assistance payments. In addition, the landlord is expected to provide the services agreed to as part of the rental agreement signed with the tenant and the contract signed with the PHA.
• PHA’s Obligations: The PHA administers the program locally. The PHA provides a family with the housing assistance that enables the family to find suitable housing. The PHA also enters into a contract with the landlord to provide housing assistance payments on behalf of the family. If the landlord fails to meet the owner's obligations under the rental agreement, the PHA has the right to terminate assistance payments. The PHA must re-examine the family's income and composition at least annually and must inspect each unit at least annually to ensure that it meets minimum Housing Quality Standards.
• DSS's Role: DSS contracts with John D'Amelia & Associates, LLC to administer the Rental Assistance Program for the state. DSS also develops policies, procedures and regulations, provides technical assistance to JDA and its subcontractors, provides due process administrative hearing rights to program participant’s and monitors administration of the program to ensure that program rules are followed properly.