The Ups And Downs of Subsidized Housing

DC Subsidized Housing – Is It Worth the Risk?


A question every property owner must answer: DC subsidized housing – is it worth the risk? If you do not understand the system, then you are unable to make an informed decision. You may not choose to hire a property manager, but speaking with one can arm you with the right answers.DC Subsidized Housing


What is subsidized housing?

Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) – formerly Section 8 – provides housing vouchers for low-income families, the elderly, and disabled in Washington, DC. The amount of the vouchers is determined by their adjusted monthly income. The potential tenant is able to choose their own housing and, either, have the voucher cover the cost or they may pay the difference.


Reasons to say yes!

The first, and obvious, up side is the fact that you will have a guaranteed payment from the government deposited immediately into your bank account the 1st of every month. No more tracking down tenants for late payments. This ensures reliable, predictable rental income.


Deciding to accept subsidized housing expands your potential tenant pool for properties in neighborhoods that are not easily rented.


Every management company has a tenant screening process. HCVP tenants have already been pre-screened to meet their strict requirements. And there are rules which must be followed in order to remain in the program. Should the tenants develop poor rental history, or become involved in drugs or other crime-related issues, they will lose their voucher assistance. (What to do if tenants become irresponsible and/or break laws in your property–and how to evict–will be covered in a later blog. Stay tuned!)


Unlike non-subsidized DC rentals, which are inspected once prior to renting, the Voucher Program requires an annual home inspection (see the HCVP criteria here), the first of which is prior to tenant move-in. While this may seem like a hassle, think of it as more like a free home inspection. Another set of eyes on the property before the tenant makes it their home never hurts. (We know, that’s a stretch). But, what is important is it, actually, helps make sure the tenants maintain the dwelling according to the standards of the Housing Department (and you!) and are able to remain in the program.


This brings us to reasons you might say no!

As a landlord, you’ve heard the horror stories and we’re all to familiar with the stereotypes. As a seasoned DC property management company, we’ve worked with HCVP housing and tenants, and we know first-hand the potential downside. We want to tell you, it’s not what you think.


Your biggest downside will be repairs to your home. What is important to remember is the purpose behind subsidized housing, which is to create a joint effort between private (individual landlords) and government entities to provide housing to our most vulnerable citizens. As mentioned previously, the incentive for you is your hard-to-rent property gets rented by someone who can pay — on-time, every time. however, to ensure vulnerable citizens aren’t taken advantage of by slumlords the HCVP maintains higher standards for HCVP properties. Meaning, the scrutiny is much more meticulous, which typically takes place upon first entering the Program as a landlord. Aside from the typical interior repairs required of any rental, the HCVP inspectors pay very close attention to your exterior. The worst we have seen is fixing cracks in the concrete walkway, which were merely an eye soar, and not in any way structurally unsound. So, they were fixed, and things could move forward. You can’t fight City Hall, as they say…


The second primary concern for subsidized housing in the District, is the length of time it takes to finally get your property occupied. As you may well know, there are far more people waiting for subsidized housing than there are eligible properties available. One would think since this is the case, the wait times would be relatively short. Unfortunately, the process of passing your initial Inspection, and signing the Lease with the new Tenant typically takes 2-3 months. Therefore, you must make certain you have the available funds to cover this shortage. Your property management company will always recommend you have 3-6 months of Reserve to cover turnover, late rents, and a myriad of other reasons.


You must also consider…

There is a limit on what you can charge a HCVP tenant. Fair Market Rents are determined by the area’s housing authority.


All leases must be a fixed term of 1 year or more. No more 6-month or month-to-month leases. This only applies to those on the program.


Again, a home inspection must be performed prior to move-in, once every year afterwards. If the property isn’t up to the standards of the housing authority, it will delay the move-in date for the tenant until all necessary changes have been made. They may even require a different unit for move-in all together.


There is always a waiting period for approval from the housing authority before the tenant may move in. This could be from a few days up to a month. This could leave units sitting vacant, creating high costs from you paying to keep the utilities on.


As a property owner, you do not have to make this choice on your own. A DC property management company can help make this difficult decision easier to understand, and increase your occupancy. If you have specific questions about the subsidized housing in DC, you can email us, RM Properties, at

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