house made of money
Linda Couch
Linda Couch

Under Housing and Urban Development rules, project-based vouchers can be used in assisted living communities to cover the cost of shelter, making the housing choice more affordable, according to a backgrounder released Tuesday by LeadingAge.

The vouchers can provide senior living operators with a steady, contracted stream of rent subsidy for a set amount of time, the association said.

“When someone moves from a project-based voucher apartment, the project-based voucher stays with the apartment,” wrote Linda Couch, vice president of housing policy at LeadingAge. “Project-based vouchers can be ‘stuck’ to units in assisted living communities to cover shelter costs, offering affordability to residents and steady rental income to owners.”

Assisted living providers are permitted to partner with their local public housing authorities to obtain the vouchers, the same as a market-rate housing owner or someone with a low income housing tax credit, according to LeadingAge.

The first step for operators is to contact the public housing authority to find out whether the local agency currently provides project-based vouchers, and if not, whether it is planning to start. LeadingAge suggested speaking with the administrator/director of the voucher program.

“As you talk with your [public housing authority] colleagues, relay the benefits affordable assisted living brings to the broader jurisdiction served by the PHA,” Couch wrote.

Public housing authorities are allowed to use up to 20% of their authorized number of vouchers for project-based vouchers, subject to the availability of annually appropriated funds. An additional 10% of the vouchers can be set aside for housing for certain types of individuals, that is,  older adults, people living with disabilities, formerly homeless people and families, and veterans.

There is a limit to the number of project-based vouchers — 25% of the units in a given property or 25 units — permitted per applicant, in addition to tenant-based vouchers. The voucher contract terms can be from one to 20 years, with the possibility to renew at the end of the initial term.

The public housing authority is allowed to triage applications based on need. 

“Establishing such preferences is necessary when residents will also have to qualify for an assisted living community’s services,” Couch wrote.