The goal of the housing choice voucher program is to provide “decent, safe and sanitary” housing at an affordable cost to low-income families. To accomplish this, program regulations set forth basic housing quality standards (HQS) which all units must meet before assistance can be paid on behalf of a family and at least annually throughout the term of the assisted tenancy.
PHAs can adopt policies that allow for HQS inspections to be conducted biennially. These adaptations must be stated in the PHA’s admin plan. HQS defines “standard housing” and establishes the minimum criteria necessary for the health and safety of program participants.
HQS includes requirements for all housing types, including single and multi-family dwelling units, as well as specific requirements for special housing types such as manufactured homes, congregate housing, single room occupancy (SROs), shared housing and group residences (GRs).
Acceptability parameters for each requirement help PHAs determine if the unit meets mandatory minimum standards. For some standards, specific guidance is provided, but PHA’s must rely upon the inspector’s judgement in each area.
HUD may grant approval for a PHA to use acceptability criteria variations. These typically would be due to standards contained in local housing codes or because of local climatic or geographic conditions.
Acceptability criteria variations may only be approved by HUD, if the variation meets or exceeds the performance requirement and does not unduly limit the amount and type of rental housing available at or below the fair market rent. HUD will not approve variations if the change is likely to adversely affect the health or safety of participant families or severely restrict housing choice.
The PHA administrative plan should include any HUD-approved variations to HQS acceptability criteria that will be used to judge the condition of the unit. For example, if the PHA has received HUD approval to require that assisted units must have deadbolt locks on all doors leading from the unit to the exterior or public areas, the requirement should be included in the PHA administrative plan as an addition to HQS standards.
Take a look at your administrative plan for any PHA-specific HQS guidelines.