The District of Columbia Housing Authority is taking steps to help voucher customers move closer to more opportunities in housing, schools, and other city amenities.

DCHA’s HALO (Housing Affordable Living Options) program assists families move to low-poverty neighborhoods in the District of Columbia by providing search assistance, mobility counseling, landlord incentives, and ongoing support. The program is not locally or federally mandated, but is optional for any qualifying voucher customer.

“The HALO program, or the Housing Affordable Living Options program, is designed for families to move to low-poverty areas in the District,” said Ronald McCoy, director of DCHA’s Housing Choice Voucher Program. “In addition, we are building relationships with landlords who typically don’t do business with us, educating them about partnerships with DCHA, and gathering data on their screening criteria.”

HALO has a two-tiered approach.

As part of the first tier, the DCHA team reaches out to voucher customers and lets them know they have options in neighborhoods, such as Adams Morgan, Brentwood, Petworth, and Chevy Chase, among other neighborhoods west of the Anacostia River. The team explains the schools and other amenities in each neighborhood where there are participating landlords.

Voucher customers who choose to participate are enrolled into mobility counseling, or a series of classes and programs that help families prepare for their move to neighborhoods that are more economically diverse and may have more opportunities and options for their households. Families are counseled in areas such as financial planning, credit repair, information on the neighborhoods that interest them, DCHA’s internal training program that teaches families how to maintain their units and be a good neighbor, and their rights as tenants in the District of Columbia. HALO families also agree to participate in DCHA initiatives designed to move them toward being self-sufficient—with many customers having a goal of homeownership.

“We do a household assessment to see if they meet the new landlords’ criteria and work with them so they can move to those areas,” said Diane Oliver, DCHA Customer Relations Manager.

Oliver explained that data gathered from the landlords’ application criteria is used to identify how customers can improve their chances of moving into various neighborhoods. If customers are not enrolled in the Family Self-Sufficiency program, which can help them improve their job prospects and credit scores, for example, HCVP staff can refer them to organizations that offer such assistance. Completing these steps can help put them in a better position to fulfill the landlord’s criteria.

As the second tier, DCHA employees have been scouring neighborhoods to identify landlords interested in housing DCHA voucher families. The staff explains the benefits of partnering with DCHA and how the Housing Choice Voucher Program works. DCHA also arranges pre-inspections to fill units fast. In the past, DCHA sought landlords, but not as aggressively.

“I just started in the HALO program. I think it is good. I like having good tenants,” said Melissa Muhammad, a landlord who participated at a recent Meet and Lease event for Barry Farm customers. “I put a lot of effort into my units and I like my tenants to do that, too.”

Currently a total of 90 families in HALO have successfully moved into low-poverty areas. An additional 108 families are in the process of searching for units and/or completing their workshops.

DCHA will meet regularly with the customers and landlords to ensure a lasting and positive relationship as part of our mediation services. The goal is to make the process less cumbersome for landlords, McCoy said.

DCHA also applied to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development to get approval for a pilot program that would further reduce barriers voucher customers face when moving to areas with more opportunity for their families—such as paying for security deposits or application fees. If approved, the program would exchange up to one month’s “contract rent” to cover necessary repairs when a HALO customer moves out of their unit instead of providing a security deposit before they move into the unit. To receive the funds, landlords must agree to rent to another HALO client once the unit is ready for occupancy.

For more information about the HALO program, please email us at halo@dchousing.org.  Landlords interested in a special presentation should contact Ms. Noelee Wishart at nwishart@dchousing.org or Ms. Deborah Simms at dsimms@dchousing.org.

A resident signs the lease to her new home.
Last modified: 4/4/2018 4:58:51 PM