Community Choice Demonstration
The Community Choice Demonstration (CCD) helps families with Housing Choice Vouchers find homes in Opportunity Areas in Pittsburgh – Allegheny County. Opportunity Areas are neighborhoods and municipalities in Pittsburgh – Allegheny County that offer more public amenities, high-quality schools, and low crime rates. These areas have historically been difficult for families with vouchers to move to due to factors including higher rental costs and the unfamiliarity of property owners with the Housing Choice Voucher program.
The Pittsburgh – Allegheny County Community Choice Demonstration is part of a national demonstration funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The demonstration studies the effects of additional services on the ability of families to move into Opportunity Areas. Families interested in receiving services must sign up for the study and will be randomly assigned to receive services. For more information about the national demonstration, go here.
Families with vouchers from Allegheny County Housing Authority (ACHA) and Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP) can enroll in the CCD and will be randomly assigned to a treatment or control group. Families in the treatment group receive pre- and post-move coaching to support their transition to Opportunity Areas. Families in the treatment group also receive housing search assistance and financial assistance to help cover the security deposit and some other move-related expenses.
ACHA and HACP have taken steps to ensure the rental ceiling standard for homes in Opportunity Areas are affordable for families and competitive for property owners in the private rental market. Owners who rent to CCD families receive financial incentives, including a lease-up bonus. Program staff work with families and property owners to facilitate good tenant-owner matches and positive relationships between them.
Families in the Community Choice Demonstration work with a Housing Coach who will discuss your family’s housing and community needs, develop a family preparation plan, work with you to conduct your housing search, and assist you in contacting property owners.
We can only assist families in finding homes in designated Opportunity Areas, where children and families are expected to have the best opportunity to thrive.
- Pre-move support: Help with thinking through which neighborhoods are the best fit for you and your family. The program will also help you get ready to put in applications. That looks different for every family. It might mean attending one of workshops or getting additional support from one of our partner agencies.
- Housing search assistance: Help finding properties in Opportunity Areas where the property owner is willing to consider you as an applicant.
- Move-related financial assistance: Help with paying the security deposit and some other move-related expenses.
- Faster processing: Community Choice staff will help you and the property owner fill out the paperwork and efficiently process it at the Housing Authority.
- Post-move support: Offered in the form of information and resources about your new neighborhood.
If you have a Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) from ACHA or HACP and you are interested in the Community Choice Demonstration, contact DHS-CommunityChoice@alleghenycounty.us. Make sure that you will qualify for the program by looking at our eligibility guidelines in the FAQs below. A number of families on ACHA and HACP’s Housing Choice Voucher waitlist will also be invited to apply to participate in the Demonstration.
The Community Choice Demonstration connects families with Housing Choice Vouchers to property owners who maintain quality housing in Opportunity Areas in Pittsburgh-Allegheny County where children and families can have the best opportunity to thrive.
The Housing Choice Voucher program is a federal rental assistance program that helps low-income families find safe and desirable housing on the private rental market. Families with vouchers only pay a portion of their income towards their rent, and the voucher covers the rest. We make sure that the unit will be affordable for the family before reaching out to property owners.
Find out why property owners love working with the Community Choice Demonstration:
- Reliable rent payments: The Housing Authority pays their portion of the rent through direct deposit to your bank account.
- Lease-up bonus: Property owners who lease up with a Community Choice Demonstration participant will receive a bonus in the amount of 50% of one month’s rent.
- Supported families: Tenants receive coaching to help ensure that they will make a successful transition into their new home and security deposit assistance.
- Faster processing: Community Choice staff will help you fill out the paperwork and efficiently process it at the Housing Authority.
- Asset protection: Have peace of mind when you lease-up with a program tenant knowing that you can access a Damage Mitigation Fund of up to $2,000 in the rare event that a tenant leaves their unit damaged.
- Free listing service: Fill vacancies quickly and save on advertising costs through our exclusive unit list for homes in your area.
- Rent to a family in need of a home: Families in the program are looking for homes in Opportunity Areas to give their kids the best chances at success. They need property owners, like you, who will give them a chance too.
See our Property Owner brochure here.
List your eligible units today! Not sure if your unit is in an Opportunity Area? Check the Address Locator Tool below. For more information, contact YWCA’s Community Choice Demonstration Program Staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to support for families, the Community Choice Demonstration (CCD) includes an independent evaluation—the Community Choice Demonstration study. The goal of the CCD study is to understand what services and supports help eligible families access neighborhoods that provide good opportunities for parents and their children. Every family that enrolls will help contribute to this important research. Participation in the program and study is completely voluntary. To have a chance of being offered services under the program, however, you must agree to participate in the study.
A family is considered eligible if they have a Housing Choice Voucher with Allegheny County Housing Authority (ACHA) or the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP) and at least one child aged 17 or under that they consent to have participate in the study. A number of families from the current ACHA or HACP Housing Choice Voucher waitlist are also being invited to apply to participate in the Demonstration.
To help you determine if participating in the Community Choice Demonstration is right for your family, ACHA or HACP will invite you to an information session to learn more. Then, if you choose to participate, the following will occur:
- Share Information: You will be asked to answer some questions about yourself and your family, such as the names and ages of the people living with you. ACHA or HACP will review a form with you that explains more about the study and the requirements if you decide to participate. If you agree to participate, you will be asked some additional questions about your child’s current school experiences, and your child’s health. You will also be asked to fill out a survey about your housing situation, your thoughts on moving, your education and employment status, and your health.
- Random Selection: If you choose to participate, you will be assigned to one of two groups. This assignment will be random, like flipping a coin, to make sure that each participating family has an equal chance of being placed in either group. The groups will be randomly determined by a computer, not by a person. The first group will be offered a Housing Choice Voucher and the usual services from the ACHA or HACP without any additional services. The second group will be offered a Housing Choice Voucher and a set of additional services that will assist them in searching for and moving to housing in specific areas of their choice, called Opportunity Areas.
- Follow-Up Information: You may be asked to participate in future surveys or interviews as researchers study the impacts of the services provided under the Community Choice Demonstration. Your participation in those future studies would be voluntary. And, to learn about the long-term effects of being offered these services and supports, researchers may collect data about you and your children from different sources for several years.
The study will allow for a better understanding of how to support families with a Housing Choice Voucher in finding housing in Opportunity Areas. Using information collected through the study, researchers will measure whether children in households that receive services and move to new neighborhoods do better in school and earn more money later in life. The study will also measure how well these services help adults in the household.
For more information about how you can participate in the study, contact the Community Choice Demonstration Project Coordinator at DHS-CommunityChoice@alleghenycounty.us and check out the eligibility FAQ below.
ADDRESS LOCATOR TOOL
Participants and property owners can use this page to identify if a property is in an Opportunity Area and the highest amount the Housing Authority can pay for a unit in that area* by voucher size.
*Families with income can afford higher rental amounts. The numbers displayed in the table are for clients with $0 income using average utility allowances. If you think the utilities for the unit might be higher than average, the top rent the family can afford will be lower.
Step 1: Enter the property address into the search bar in the top right corner of the map.
Step 2: Click on the circle that pinpoints the address. A text box will appear with a second page that lists the neighborhood the unit is in, the payment tier, and the Opportunity Area designation.**
Step 3: If the unit is in an Opportunity Area, select a voucher size from the drop down menu and the number of bedrooms the unit has. The estimated top rent amount for that tier will populate.
To find the map legend and local amenities – such as public transportation stops, schools, and school districts – click on the Legend and Amenities icons in the top left corner of the map.
**Areas highlighted in green are Opportunity Areas
Frequently Asked Questions
A Housing Choice Voucher, historically called “Section 8,” is a rental subsidy for low-income households in the United States. The Housing Choice Voucher program is the largest federally subsidized housing program for low-income households in the U.S., with 2,500 voucher programs operated by state and regional authorities across the country. In our region, the Allegheny County Housing Authority (ACHA), the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP), and the McKeesport Housing Authority operate Housing Choice Voucher programs.
The Housing Choice Voucher program is not an entitlement program, and only about one quarter of families who qualify for the program actually receive a voucher. Typically, there are long waitlists of eligible families who want to receive vouchers.
Families who receive vouchers search for housing on the private rental market. The voucher acts as a coupon, allowing families to pay only an affordable portion of their rent. Families pay up to 40% of their income towards their housing costs (which include both rent and utilities), and the voucher covers the rest. If the family has no income, the voucher will typically cover the whole cost of rent and provide the family with a subsidy to pay utilities. Vouchers are subject to regional rental ceilings that place a cap on the dollar amount that the Housing Authority can pay for a rental unit based on its neighborhood, bedroom size, and amenities included in the unit.
Renting your property to a family with a Housing Choice Voucher is very similar to a standard leasing process. There are just a few extra steps to ensure that you and the tenant will make a successful match.
We encourage property owners to screen voucher families the same way they would with any other applicant. You will want to consider, however, that the voucher will count towards a large portion of the rent (if not all of it), so many property owners have different, more flexible income criteria for voucher holders.
After an applicant goes through your screening criteria, you turn in a packet of information to the Housing Authority called a Request for Tenancy Approval (RFTA). This packet verifies that you are the owner of the unit and lists the amenities included in the rent.
Once the Housing Authority has the Request for Tenancy Approval, you and the Housing Authority must agree on the rent amount. The Housing Authority will look at comparable units in the area (based on amenities, size, and type of unit) to make sure that the rental amount requested is a fair price based on the market.
Lastly, a Housing Authority representative will inspect the unit to ensure that it meets Housing Quality Standards. These standards were created to ensure that our federal tax dollars are not used to house families in units that are subpar and unsafe.
After the unit passes inspection, the tenant can sign the lease and pay their deposit. You sign an agreement with the Housing Authority called the Housing Assistance Payment Contract (HAP for short). This contract affirms that you have agreed to receive rental payment from the Housing Authority. You can find more information on ACHA’s processes here and HACP’s processes here.
Each month, you will receive rent from both the Housing Authority and the tenant. If the tenant’s income decreases, the Housing Authority will pay a larger portion of the rent so that the unit is always affordable for the tenant.
If the tenant chooses to continue living in your unit past the initial lease term, the Housing Authority will conduct another inspection prior to the lease renewal date. Inspections are typically conducted annually for HACP and biannually for ACHA.
The dollar amount a voucher will cover varies and is based on several factors including a household’s size and income, unit location and regional limits, and rental unit characteristics. These factors are further explained below:
Housing Authorities are subject to limits set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which sets regional limits on how much the housing authority can pay based on the number of bedrooms a family qualifies for. The limit is called the Payment Standard, and in Pittsburgh – Allegheny County, the Payment Standard is dependent upon the location of the unit.
Use the Address Locator Tool (above) to look up which tier a property is in and if it qualifies for the Community Choice Demonstration. The search tool also provides the user with the estimated top rental price for that neighborhood. This dollar value is the estimated maximum rent a family with $0 of income can afford. It is calculated by subtracting the average utility allowance for that bedroom size from the Payment Standard.
There are two other, important factors that may affect a family’s voucher value and rental costs. First, families with income may choose to rent above the established price limit, because they can pay a larger portion of the rent. Second, the rental cost must be similar in price to other comparable units in the area. As part of the initial inspection process, the Housing Authority will look at comparable units in the area (based on amenities, size, and type of unit) to make sure that the rental amount the property owner requests is a fair price based on the market.
Opportunity Areas are neighborhoods or communities in Pittsburgh – Allegheny County where children and families are expected to have the best opportunity to thrive. Researchers and local experts developed the list of Opportunity Areas based on data on school quality, long-term economic outcomes for children, poverty rates, and other social and economic neighborhood criteria. Opportunity Areas are defined along census tracts and block groups, which are area designations developed by the U.S. Census Bureau.
You can view the Opportunity Areas using the Address Locator Tool on this page.
Your family might be eligible if:
- You have a voucher from the Allegheny County Housing Authority (ACHA) or the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP).
• And you have at least one child in your household age 17 or younger.
A small number of families from the current ACHA and HACP Housing Choice Voucher waitlists will also be invited to participate.
The Community Choice Demonstration helps families with Housing Choice Vouchers find homes in Opportunity Areas in Pittsburgh-Allegheny County. If you think you are eligible to participate in the Community Choice Demonstration, you may want to consider the following:
- Are you willing to move? Would you consider moving to a new neighborhood in an Opportunity Area?
• Do you have time to search for your housing in a new neighborhood or do you need to move very quickly? Families who are in need of immediate or emergency housing may not have enough time to benefit from the services provided through participation in the program.
Use the Address Locator Tool (above) to look up if a property is in an Opportunity Area and if it qualifies for the benefits associated with the Community Choice Demonstration. The search tool also provides the user with an estimated maximum rent for that neighborhood. This amount is the maximum rent a voucher family with $0 income can afford.