All About Subsidized Housing


By: Housing Justice Network

General information about the different types of subsidized housing, what "good cause" for eviction is, housing quality standards, and a list of legal references.
Resource Information

Types of Subsidized Housing

Public Housing
  • Publicly owned (usually owned by the Housing Authority)
  • Project-based (subsidy is attached to unit; if tenant moves, tenant loses subsidy)
  • Deep subsidy (tenant rent is 30% of household income)
  • Good cause required for eviction or non-renewal of lease
  • Pre-lawsuit: Tenant has the right to administrative grievance on most adverse decisions
  • Housing quality standards enforced by HUD
  • HUD provides capital funds and operating funds to the owner, usually the Housing Authority
Project-Based Section 8
  • Privately owned (usually not Housing Authority)
  • Project-based subsidy (subsidy is attached to unit)
  • Deep subsidy (tenant rent is 30% of household income)
  • Good cause required for eviction or non-renewal of lease
  • Pre-lawsuit: Tenant has the right to informal conference with landlord on most adverse decisions
  • Housing quality standards enforced by HUD
  • Usually HUD-held or HUD-insured mortgage with housing assistance payments contract signed by private owner or property manager and the Section 8 administrative office (usually the local Housing Authority or HRDC)
Housing Choice Voucher

(formerly known as Section 8 voucher)

  • Tenant locates housing in private market
  • Tenant-based subsidy (subsidy is linked to tenant, not to unit; tenant can move with subsidy)
  • Rent cannot exceed voucher payment standard (set by housing authority and HUD)
  • Deep subsidy (tenant rent + utility allowance is 30%-40% of household income)
  • Good cause required for eviction within the term of the lease, if tenant is month-to- month, landlord may not have to have good cause
  • Pre-lawsuit: Landlord must give tenant written notice to vacate before filing eviction lawsuit, but no informal conference with landlord is required.
  • Termination of voucher: If the housing authority or other agency that administers the voucher seeks to revoke tenant's voucher (must have good cause), it must send tenant a written notice of proposed termination. The written notice must inform tenant of the right to contest termination, and inform tenant that she can request an informal hearing to challenge the termination decision.
  • Housing quality standards enforced by housing authority
  • Housing assistance payments contract between housing authority and landlord
  • Rental agreement between landlord and tenant

MDOC's Role in the Housing Choice Voucher Program

The Housing Division of the Montana Department of Commerce (MDOC) administers the grant that HUD gives to the State of Montana for the statewide tenant-based Section 8 program, now called Housing Choice Voucher program. MDOC contracts with local field agencies to manage the voucher program in that particular community, such as the Human Resource Council for Missoula, Mineral, and Ravalli Counties. But MDOC always makes the significant decisions itself, such as whether to terminate a tenant's assistance.

Low Income Housing Tax Credit
  • Privately owned
  • IRS program, not HUD
  • Investors get credit on federal taxes for 10 years
  • 30-year restrictive covenant with MDOC to keep the rentals income-based
  • Project-based subsidy (subsidy is attached to unit, not to tenant)
  • Shallow subsidy (rent + utility allowance set at 30% of the maximum household income for that unit), but tenants may have Housing Choice Vouchers which would further reduce rent
  • Can't refuse to rent to voucher holders
  • Good cause required for eviction or non-renewal of lease, but the requirement is not contained in any federal regulation -- must be gleaned from LIHTC statute, the Constitution's due process clause, and caselaw
  • Pre-lawsuit: nothing required in federal regulations, but cases have found that due process requires landlord to provide tenant with notice and opportunity to be heard before landlord files eviction lawsuit
  • Property condition may be enforced by Montana Department of Commerce - Housing Division if MDOC provided the financing for the tax-credit building

Shelter Plus Care


  • Subsidy may be tenant-based or project-based. In Missoula, all assistance is tenant-based - tenant locates housing in private market; the rental must be within city limits plus 10 miles
  • Entities interested in administering a Shelter Plus Care program must apply to HUD for a grant. Eligible grant applicants are states, local government units, and public housing agencies
  • Deep subsidy (tenant rent + utility allowance is 30%-40% of household income)
  • Houses people who are homeless and have dual diagnosis of serious mental illness and drug addiction and/or alcoholism, and their families. Primary tenant may also suffer from AIDS. Rental assistance may be provided only in combination with supportive services that match the needs of the person being served.
  • Participants must enter into an occupancy agreement for a term of at least one month. The occupancy agreement must be automatically renewable upon expiration, except on prior notice by either party.
  • The grantee can terminate a tenant's rental assistance if the tenant violates program requirements or conditions of occupancy. Must provide the tenant with due process before terminating (written notice, right to contest termination, impartial review of decision). [24 C.F.R. sec. 582.320]
  • Landlord can also terminate a tenant's tenancy, following the same procedure that applies to private landlord-tenant evictions.
  • Housing quality standards enforced by grantee
  • Housing assistance payments contract between grantee and landlord
  • Rental agreement between landlord and tenant

Housing Quality Standards (HQS)

Before a tenant can lease a new place using her Housing Choice Voucher or Shelter Plus Care rental assistance, the MDOC field agency or the housing authority must inspect the unit for quality standards. If the unit doesn't pass inspection, then tenant has to find another place to rent.

The MDOC field agency or the housing authority also may inspect units during the lease term if there is a complaint.

HQS includes:

  • working sanitary facilities (bathroom, sewer/septic)
  • windows and doors that lock
  • working and safe heating system; no unvented gas, oil, or kerosene space heaters
  • working and safe electrical system
  • structurally sound
  • no rodent/vermin infestation
  • no peeling paint. Landlord may have to test for lead-based paint under certain circumstances:
  1. If the landlord receives more than $5,000 per year in project-based subsidy, or
  2. If there is known lead poisoning.

"Good Cause" for Eviction

A landlord must usually have a good reason to evict a tenant who receives housing assistance. "Good cause" is defined differently in each program, but generally includes:

  1. Serious or repeated violations of the lease
  2. Violation of federal, state or local landlord tenant law
  3. Criminal activity on the part of the tenant, household members or guests
  4. "Other good cause" (refusing a reasonable modification of the lease, history of disturbing neighbors, etc.)

A tenant can only be evicted through court action. See eviction section on Lawhelp. HUD programs may entitle tenant to an informal hearing by someone other than the person making the decision to evict before the landlord can file a court action.

Find more resources using our interactive Legal Guide.
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