Housing Action Illinois recently submitted comments on the HUD’s proposed rule regarding the use of small area Fair Market Rents (SAFMRs) to determine maximum allowable rents for households using Housing Choice Vouchers. The goal of the rule is to provide voucher tenants with subsidies that reflect rents in neighborhood markets.

Currently, HUD generally uses a single Fair Market Rent (FMR) for each metropolitan area to determine maximum rents. One of the hoped for outcomes of the use of SAFMRs, which Housing Action fully supports, is to allow voucher holders more opportunities to move to areas where rents are as are relatively higher due to improved access to jobs, educational opportunities, transportation, and other services. Additional background information on the proposed rule is available here.

In our comments on the proposed rule, we expressed support for the overall goals associated with the shift to the use of SAFMRs, but also expressed concern for how current voucher holders would be impacted. Like many others commenting on the proposed rule, we asked HUD to hold all tenants harmless under the final SAFMR rule, so as to not place current voucher families risk eviction, subsidy termination, and homelessness if the rent their landlord can charge decreases.

Rather than forcing families to move in areas with declining FMRs, we recommended that these families be provided information and mobility counseling that makes them aware of the changes in the voucher program that will allow them an opportunity live in community that matches their desires for employment, education, transportation and other resources. Many voucher holders will undoubtedly make such moves.

Housing Action Illinois has been long concerned with creating more housing opportunities for people with Housing Choice Voucher holders, thereby ending the racial and economic segregation that many voucher holders have historically experienced. As long ago as 2010, Housing Action called for more targeted FMRs. We and others have continued to make this and additional recommendations. Overall, we see the proposed rule as a major improvement for the Housing Choice Voucher Program.