We hope you enjoy this new e-newsletter format!
Message from Chief HCV Officer Cheryl L. Burns
Can you believe how quickly the Summer flew by? It’s been great to see so many faces at our recent HCV Participant Resource Fair, as well as our Take Flight College Send-Off and Resident Owned Businesses events. So, I’m especially excited to announce that CHA is hosting an in-person networking event for HCV housing providers in October – the first since 2019. And, we’ll explore more in-person opportunities to support HCV families and housing providers in 2023.

Speaking of support, have you heard about Chicago’s new Mental Health support network, UN[*]SPOKEN? Visit mentalhealth.chicago.gov for more details and to find care near you, including providers who offer service regardless of income, ability to pay, insurance coverage or immigration status. We commend Mayor Lightfoot in her work to create a citywide network of trauma-informed care providers.

In this issue of Owner News, you’ll find information on recently updated CHA policies, live and on-demand webinars, reminders about important dates (including the Tax Savings Program, Heat Ordinance and virtual Symposium Week ’22) as well as answers to Frequently Asked Questions about how to calculate affordability for HCV families.

From all of us at CHA, we wish you a safe, healthy and happy end of Summer.
Did You Know?
The HCV Program Guest Policy has changed! A guest is defined as a person temporarily staying in the unit with the consent of the head of household or other adult household member. As of August 1, 2022, a guest may visit the family in an assisted unit for a total of 30 calendar days in a calendar year, however, each visit cannot exceed 14 consecutive calendar days. HCV families may request a time extension by contacting CHA.
 
Keep in mind that any guest who overstays this timeframe will be considered an unauthorized occupant and the family will be referred to the HCV Program Integrity department and subject to enforcement actions.
 
Note: This policy change was made as part of the 2022 Administrative Plan update (approved by the CHA Board of Commissioners on July 17). You can read all of CHA's current policies online by visiting www.thecha.org/about/plans-reports-and-policies.
 
Need a refresher on HCV rules and regulations, such as the Family Obligations? Want to learn more about the contracts and policies that all HCV property owners and participant families must follow? Watch the on-demand recording of our August webinar “How CHA Enforces HCV Program Rules” by visiting the HCV webinar library: gotostage.com/channel/chahcvowners.
FAQs about How CHA Calculates Rent Offers
Q: Why can’t CHA tell me what the Contract Rent will be before we submit the Request for Tenancy Approval (RTA) packet? Isn’t that the Payment Standard?
A: There are many tenant-specific and unit-specific factors that contribute to how CHA determines Contract Rent, such as:
  • The family’s income, including deductions for minors or elderly household members
  • The size of the household (part of what determines their voucher Payment Standard)
  • Whether a member of the household is a person with a disability
  • The unit’s location
  • The unit’s accessibility features
  • The utilities and appliances included in the unit’s monthly rent
 
Q: Why does CHA screen property owners and inspect units before calculating a rent offer? I’ve seen other Housing Authorities do this the other way around.
A: There are many reasons why CHA conducts an initial inspection before making a rent offer, but the most important reasons are that the inspector must verify 1) the number of bedrooms in the unit and 2) what utilities and appliances are tenant-provided. These two factors can make a significant difference in the rent offer calculations, so we want to be sure they are correct up front!
 
Q: A voucher holder has told me they can afford my unit. Should I believe them?
A: When voucher holders are issued “moving papers” (which includes the RTA packet), they are also provided with a suggested budget based on their voucher size and the income CHA has on file. So while yes, HCV families will have a good idea of what they can afford, remember that CHA’s suggested budget must also cover the cost of tenant-paid utilities! As part of any tenant affordability screening, we strongly recommend that property owners have an open conversation with the HCV family about what utilities are included in the rent, as that can make a significant difference in their ability to afford the unit.
 
Q: I have a 3x rent in income requirement for all prospective tenants. How can I fairly screen voucher holders for affordability?
A: The first thing to remember is that a Housing Choice Voucher is considered a source of income, so the value of the voucher must be included in any affordability calculations done by property owners working with CHA (since source of income is a protected class in Chicago). 
 
The good news is, since HCV families pay between 30% - 40% of their adjusted monthly income toward rent and utilities, they automatically meet any 3x rent in income screening requirement if they choose a unit that falls within their budget (see question above).
 
If you are an existing property owner, the best tool to quickly calculate affordability is the Owner Portal Affordability Calculator, which you can find under the MOVES menu. You simply enter the tenant’s annual income and voucher size, as well as the unit size, unit type, and which utilities are tenant-paid.
 
Q: Can you share some examples of how tenant affordability is calculated?
A: You can find examples in a few places … we strongly recommend that all property owners watch the on-demand webinar How CHA Determines Contract Rent for Units on the HCV Program. This session reviews the tenant affordability calculations step by step and includes multiple examples of unit affordability (and unaffordability).
 
You can also find additional written examples in the Property Owner Guidebook.
 
Q: I priced my unit based on my own market research. But CHA’s market study came back with different comps. What happened?
A: CHA partners with AffordableHousing.com and runs a market study for each unit independently, including as many unit-specific details as possible to generate the closest comparable units. The best comparable units are the same:
  • Property type (i.e., single-family, duplex, high rise, etc.)
  • Unit size (by number of bedrooms)
  • Utility responsibilities
 
Comparable units must also be no further than one (1) mile from the property (but the closer, the better) and leased without subsidy within the past year (but the more recent, the better). Sometimes, during a busy leasing season, comparable units in the database can fluctuate week by week (or even day by day).

Property owners can dispute the market study generated by CHA by submitting their own comparables to AffordableHousing.com, however, CHA cannot guarantee how significantly the new comps will impact the market study, if they are not as similar as the existing comps.
 
Q: Why do some rent determinations take longer than others?
A: CHA strives to extend a rent offer to a property owner within five (5) business days of the passed inspection. However, in cases where the HCV family qualifies for an Exception Payment Standard (because they have chosen a unit in a mobility area or are renting an accessible unit that assists them in managing a disability), additional supervisor review is required before an offer can be made, which may add a few days to the timeline.
 
Additionally, rent offers are extended via email, sent from individual CHA staff to the property owner (or designated manager)’s email address on file. To avoid delays in receiving important correspondence, we recommend:
  • Listing an email address on the RTA that is checked daily
  • Clearly typing or hand printing out the email address
  • Adding @thecha.org and @chacontractor.org to your approved sender list 
 
Q: Where can I go for personalized assistance about rent determinations?
A: If you are currently in the moves process, please continue to communicate with the CHA staff person assigned to your file, in the same email thread, with the tenant’s voucher number in the subject line. This ensures that staff efforts are not duplicated, and communication strings are clearly trackable.
 
General questions about rent determination can be emailed to CHA’s Owner Services Department at ownerinfo@thecha.org.
HCV Webinars, Live and On-Demand ... Plus In-Person Events Return!
As of June 2022, housing providers can watch “Get Started with the HCV Program” on-demand! During this 45-minute session, we review what you need to know to succeed as a property owner in the HCV Program, including what to do when a participant family is interested in your unit (or when you buy a property with existing HCV participant tenants).

Have briefing-related questions, or want to request a 1:1 consultation? Our HCV Owner Outreach team is here to help. Email owneroutreach@thecha.org for assistance (y también ofrecemos estos servicios en español)!
Looking for more HCV education? Join CHA for semi-monthly live webinars, or watch session recordings on-demand.

Upcoming sessions include:

Plus, join us in person (for the first time in 2+ years):
Heat Ordinance in Effect Sept. 15
The Chicago Heat Ordinance requires that during designated cold weather months (September 15 – June 1 of each year), property owners supply heat to habitable spaces within residential apartments where occupants do not have individual control of the heat. The Ordinance also requires that property owners keep heating equipment within individual apartments or homes in good operating condition.
 
Remember: The indoor temperature is required to be at least 68°F from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and at least 66°F from 10:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. for the entire heating season.
 
If a complaint is filed (via 3-1-1), the Chicago Department of Buildings will inspect the property and take appropriate action. Property owners face fines of up to $1,000 per day, per violation, for each day they do not supply adequate heat. The reason for lack of heat does not matter.
 
For more information, including specific regulations based on the type of central heating and cooling system in the building, visit chicago.gov/heat.
 
Note: CHA’s Housing Quality Standards (HQS) mirror the City of Chicago minimum temperature requirements during heating season. Furthermore, heating systems that cannot maintain a minimum of 55 degrees will be classified as an emergency fail item. For more information, reference the HQS Inspection Guidebook.
HCV Tax Savings Program
Don’t forget! Qualified Illinois property owners who rent to participants in the HCV Program can apply for property tax abatement tax savings, up to 19% of a property's Equalized Assessed Value (EAV).

Note: The actual amount will depend upon tax rates, the state equalizer, the EAV and the number of qualified units rented to HCV Program participants. If approved, the tax abatement will be realized on the second installment of the subsequent tax year.
 
Tax Savings Program applications must be printed, notarized and submitted by mail annually, and a separate application is required for each Property Index Number (PIN). If you don't know your PIN, visit www.cookcountyassessor.com or check your tax bill.
 
Applications for the 2022 tax year are due by December 15, 2022.
Thanks for Reading
We appreciate your continued partnership! If you liked this newsletter, or have topic suggestions for newsletter articles or webinars, reply to this email and let us know.
 
Looking for past editions of Owner News? Visit the Owner Portal, log in and click on the 'RESOURCES' tab.