Once applicants have been accepted into the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP), they may feel overwhelmed by program rules and what happens next. A comprehensive HCVP briefing is vital to participant success. Quadel program manager, Paula Bingham, discusses how PHAs can ensure briefings meet the needs of participants below.
Understand the PHA’s Role and Responsibility
Most importantly, participants are given their housing vouchers at program briefings. It is the PHA’s responsibility to be sure each participant knows what steps to take to use the housing voucher successfully. Program rules must be covered including those specified by HUD. Bingham notes that a large amount of information must be digestible.
“Some participants may be familiar with the program, but most will not,” Bingham said. “The topics covered include the three-way partnership between the PHA, the landlord, and the voucher participant, and the responsibilities of each; how the voucher size was determined and payment standards; how and where to search for a unit; how the tenant portion of the rent is calculated; the inspection process; annual recertifications and interim reporting requirements. It’s important for briefing attendees to know the importance of following the program rules, and if they have questions or concerns, the PHA will do its best to provide clear information and when needed, refer them to available resources to succeed.”
Use Visual Aids to Explain the Information
HCV briefing information is vital to understand. Technical program regulations, rules, and industry jargon can confuse those new to the program. The best briefings must be offered in a variety of methods fit for adult learners. While many PHAs prefer in-person briefings, others may use video conferencing, telephone, and recorded briefings. Visual aids such as PowerPoints or videos engage the audience and help attendees retain information. Additionally, recorded briefings allow participants 24/7 access to important information they can reference as needed.
“We have all learned how to function in a virtual environment, but I still believe there is a place for in-person briefings when PHA’s can do so. Utilizing a professional effective presentation is necessary when sharing information about the program,” Bingham said. “When doing in-person briefings, I also welcome questions throughout the presentation unless it is only relevant to that one individual. In that case, I make myself available for personal situation questions after the briefing is over.”
Be Aware of the Individual Needs of Briefing Attendees
Bingham noted that she starts each briefing by stating no one should leave before all of their questions are answered. Briefing attendee backgrounds are just as diverse as the communities PHAs serve. Those conducting the briefing must understand each person’s situation and any special requirements.
“While there is some information that is required to be covered in a voucher briefing, the challenge is to determine just how much additional information is needed based on the particular group,” Bingham said. “Are the vouchers being issued to homeless individuals/families? Is anyone a veteran? Are any attendees aging out of foster care? Is anyone being displaced due to a public housing demo? These are all situations to be aware of,” Bingham said. “If the FSS program or Homeownership is an option, I spend a little extra time talking about the advantages and the importance of working toward self-sufficiency.”
Quadel provides technical assistance to PHAs to improve briefing processes. This may include creating briefing packets or videos. For more information regarding these services, request a proposal.