September 2019
HUD Approves Increasing Project-based Vouchers to 40% of SCCHA Inventory

In July the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved the agency’s annual Moving to Work (MTW) Plan for FY 2020 (July 1, 2019 June 30, 2020). Now in our twelfth year, MTW status enables us to continually make strategic program and policy changes to better address Silicon Valley’s critical shortage of affordable housing. Our newly approved plan includes an activity that raises our percentage cap of Section 8 project-based vouchers (PBVs) to 40% of our total voucher baseline. Tied to specific apartment units, PBVs are one of our most effective tools to increase the affordable housing supply, especially for vulnerable populations. With just over 2,700 PBVs already attached to units being leased or in construction, we now have nearly 4,000 more PBVs available for use in San José and other cities in Santa Clara County. These PBVs are integral to financing the County’s 2016 Measure A housing bond projects and to ending homelessness through long-term solutions like permanent supportive housing. 

In other news, SCCHA recently earned a 2019 Award of Merit from The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) for our Customer Service Initiative. With the help of a consultant, we learned how to use a "design thinking" approach to understand customer service problems and find ways to address them. We’re particularly excited about our new web-based application, the Tenant Applicant Portal (TAP), located at . A byproduct of our design thinking approach, this new web-based app gives Section 8 tenants the ability to upload documents and accomplish tasks without going to the agency, plus a way to directly contact housing specialists. Other improvements spawned by the customer service initiative are modifications to our Section 8 waitlist – more on that in coming months. 

Katherine Harasz
Executive Director

Strive Program Awards $52,000 in Scholarships
SCCHA Executive Director Katherine Harasz, Commissioner Denis O'Neal and Tenant Commissioner Russell present the Strive award to Taivon Baker. Taivon is studying studio art at California State University, Fullerton.
This summer the agency awarded scholarships of $1,000 each to 52 dedicated students through our 2019 Strive Scholarship program. The Strive program provides financial assistance to Section 8 tenants or tenants of rental properties affiliated with SCCHA in support of their pursuit of post-secondary education. Since the Strive program’s inception in 2015, the agency has awarded a total of $222,550 to 299 students. This year we had 90 applicants.

We continue to be inspired by our Strive recipients’ resilience and compassion. They’ll be attending a diverse mix of colleges and universities, both within and outside California. As expected, their interests are broad and include careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), medicine, social sciences and business. Most are the first in their families to attend college. 

Each of our awardees is determined to positively influence their family and community. These sentiments were shared by two students during the Strive reception held in July. In her first year at San José State University, Janneth Nguyen is pursuing a career in forensic science, "so that I can become someone who helps others in their time of need." Harrison Dang, a freshman at University of the Pacific, plans to study in the pre-pharmacy program. "This is my way of giving back to the community, helping people with their needs."

For more about our scholarship program, click here .

FSS Program Grads Increase Income, Leave Housing Assistance
Ja’Vonne, a current SCCHA FSS participant and veteran who experienced homelessness, celebrates earning her bachelor’s degree from William Jessup University.
Helping low-income families achieve financial stability and self-reliance is core to our mission. This month we’re pleased to report on the impact of our HUD-funded Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, which matches housing-assisted families with life skills so that they may work toward becoming financially independent of welfare systems. 

Through SCCHA’s voluntary FSS program, families work toward increasing their earned income. During the typical five-year contract term, participants set economic self-sufficiency goals and are required to seek and maintain employment or attend school or job training. LifeSTEPS, our social services partner, helps families establish and work toward their goals. As the participant’s wage income rises, SCCHA matches the amount of the tenant rent increase with funds that are held in an escrow account for release upon graduation. To graduate, the head of household must be suitably employed, he/she must complete all the stated goals in the economic self-sufficiency plan, and the household must discontinue any cash welfare benefits during the last 12 consecutive months of the contract.
Congratulations to our FSS program grads and current FSS enrollees, who are making great strides! Between January 1, 2012, and April 30, 2019, current FSS enrollees 303 families increased their total household incomes by 365% more than average-assisted (non-FSS participant) SCCHA households over the same period ($8,430 compared to $1,814). 

Among SCCHA’s FSS program graduates, 39% 14 families left housing assistance within 14 months after graduation. In addition, our graduates:
  • increased earned income on average by 173% ($20,345 to $55,486), exceeding the national average increase of 80% among FSS participants; 
  • completed their identified goals within an average of 3 years 10 months; and
  • 75% of grads accrued an average of $11,272 in escrow. 

For more about our FSS program, click here .  

Russell Appointed Tenant Commissioner

We warmly welcome Marilyn Russell as our newest Tenant Commissioner. A resident of Lenzen Gardens Apartments in San José, Russell is an active community organizer who enjoys volunteering in Lenzen’s vegetable garden and assisting with on-site food distribution and recycling programs. Russell’s service extends into her neighborhood, where she is an eucharistic minister for St. Leo The Great Catholic Church. Prior to retiring in 2015, she worked 16 years for Comcast Corporation. "I’m thrilled for the opportunity to represent the needs of low-income seniors, and I look forward to working on policies that will further housing availability and affordability," said Russell. "Just seeing the joy in the faces of our recent Strive scholarship awardees of all ages brought home to me the incredible work being done in our community to pull people out of poverty."

Join Our Landlord Team

With the goal of ensuring more Section 8 renters can use their housing vouchers, San José’s City Council recently approved a new ordinance to protect Section 8 renters from housing discrimination. Our agency partners with more than 6,000 landlords in San José and has numerous ongoing activities to encourage more landlords to join the Section 8 program. SCCHA already has used its MTW flexibility to streamline leasing through waiving certain HUD-mandated lease language. We’ve also implemented several owner-friendly processes including thanking new Section 8 owners with an additional $2,500 bonus at their first lease-up and providing landlords who re-rent to Section 8 families a loyalty bonus of $1,500. Unit inspections can be scheduled within 24 hours, with the average lease-up taking about 22 days.

To join our landlord team, list your unit on and call SCCHA’s Owner Ombudsperson, Susanne Cordova, at (408) 993-2949.

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The Santa Clara County Housing Authority is the largest provider of affordable housing assistance in the county, helping make rental housing safe and affordable for low-income families through Section 8 voucher programs and below-market rental properties. Designated a Moving to Work agency, it has the capacity to assist nearly 18,000 households.
Santa Clara County Housing Authority
505 West Julian Street, San José, California, 95110  *