Frequently asked questions
What is the Mobility Connection Program?
The Mobility Connection Program is a free service that works with the Housing Authorities in St. Louis City and County to help families with housing choice vouchers to move to High Opportunity Areas.
We work with clients to discuss their family’s housing and community needs and create a family plan so the family can transition into a new area. After families have moved, we continue to offer support to families through regular check-ins.
What services does Mobility Connection offer to voucher holders?
Pre-move support. The family and Mobility Counselor will discuss the family’s housing and community needs, and establish a Family Plan.
Examples of the items included in the needs assessment and family plan include:
Family’s transportation needs
Where children would attend school
Child care needs
Access to other important institutions (ie, churches, health care facilities)
Needs and wants in the housing search
The Mobility Counselor will also ask the client to bring their credit report with them during the first meeting. The credit report will help the Mobility Counselor assess if the client will have any trouble finding housing in HOAs due to previous financial behavior. The counselor may also recommend the client for additional help from other agencies.
Housing Search Assistance. The Mobility Counselor will provide the family with
Information and material on the areas of high opportunity
A journal to keep track of available units they are interested in
Referrals for available units
The Mobility Counselor and Outreach Coordinator may also do housing searches with the family. Program staff may also help the family to call property owners, schedule appointments, and visit listings.
Workshops. The Mobility Counseling Program offers workshops to help families develop skills and techniques to meet certain housing needs. The workshops are available to families in the Mobility Connection Program and to families with HCVs outside of the program. The workshops are not mandatory but the Mobility Counselor may highly recommend that the family attend the workshops. The workshops are held on a regular basis (depending on demand and availability of the workshop partners) at each Housing Authority.
Workshops are one to two hours long on topics including:
Family/Property Owners rights
How to conduct the housing search
How to be a good renter
Post-move support. Mobility Connection continues to support the family after they move to make sure that the family makes a successful transition into their new area. This may include regular check-ins with the family, helping the family in enrolling their kids in the new school system, and finding referrals for new services.
Upon moving, the Program will provide a moving packet with information about the new community, including:
A map of the area
Information on local government
How to hook up utilities/phone services
Nearby grocery stores
Website information for other resources: public transportation; school district; health care facilities; recreation and community centers; community events calendar
Mobility Connection staff will check in with every family about a month after they move to ensure they are making a successful transition.
What benefits does Mobility Connection offer to property owners?
Mobility Connection helps property owners connect with quality tenants. We will provide you with pre-screened tenants with housing choice vouchers who offer guaranteed rental income. We will also assist in processing the paperwork associated with the voucher at the housing authority. We make sure that everything will run smoothly for you to lease up your unit quickly.
Working with families who have vouchers provides you with the peace of mind that you will receive payments on time every month. The Housing Authority never pays property owners late and offers direct deposit.
Mobility Connection also offers a free listing service so we can continually offer your units to new tenants as they begin their housing search process.
What is a Housing Choice Voucher?
A Housing Choice Voucher, historically called “Section 8,” is a rental subsidy for low- and moderate-income households in the United States. It is the largest federal subsidized housing program for low- and moderate-income households in the US. State and regional authorities operate 2,500 voucher programs around the country. In our region, the St. Louis Housing Authority and the Housing Authority of St. Louis County operate the Housing Choice Voucher program.
The Housing Choice Voucher program is not an entitlement program, and only about a quarter of families who qualify for the program actually receive a voucher. There are typically long waiting lists for families who want to receive vouchers. In the St. Louis region, both waiting lists at the Housing Authorities are currently closed.
Families who receive vouchers search for housing on the private rental market. The voucher acts as a coupon, so families can find housing affordable to them, and they only pay a portion of the rent. Families only pay up to 40% of their income towards their housing costs (both rent and utilities). If the family has no income, the voucher will typically cover the whole cost of the rent and provide the family with a subsidy to pay utilities. Vouchers are subject to regional rental ceilings where the housing authority can pay only up to a certain amount for a unit based on the neighborhood, bedroom size, and amenities included in the unit.
I have never worked with a tenant with a housing choice voucher before. What should I expect?
Renting your property to a family with a voucher follows a very similar process as leasing to a family without a voucher, with a few extra steps to make sure you and the tenant will make a successful match.
We encourage property owners to screen voucher families the same way they would with any other applicant. You will want to consider, however, that the voucher will count towards a large portion of the rent (if not all of it), so many property owners have different income criteria for voucher holders.
After an applicant goes through your screening criteria, you turn in an application to the Housing Authority called a Request for Tenancy Approval. This proves that you are the owner of the unit and lists the amenities included in the unit.
Once the packet is turned into the Housing Authority, a Housing Authority representative will inspect the unit to make sure that it follows Housing Quality Standards. These standards were created to ensure that our federal tax dollars are not used to house families in sub-par and unsafe housing (see a check list here).
When your unit passes inspection, you and the Housing Authority must agree on the rent amount. This step was established to ensure that property owners could not take advantage of Housing Authorities by requesting extraordinary rent for their properties rented to families with vouchers. The Housing Authority looks at comparable units in the neighborhood to make sure the rent is set at a fair price.
After the rent is set, the tenant can sign the lease and put in their deposit, and you sign an agreement with the Housing Authority called the Housing Assistance Payment Contact (HAP for short). The contract shows that you have agreed to receive the rental payment from the Housing Authority. Each month, you receive the rent from the Housing Authority and the tenant. If the tenant’s income goes down, the Housing Authority will pay a larger portion of the rent so that the unit is always affordable for the tenant.
Inspections are typically conducted annually, so if the tenant wants to live in your unit another year, the Housing Authority will come to inspect the unit prior to the ending of the lease.
How much is the voucher worth?
Housing Authorities are subject to limits set by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which sets regional limits on how much the housing authority can pay based on the number of bedrooms the family qualifies for. The limit is called the Payment Standard, and in the St. Louis region, the Payment Standard is dependent on the location of the unit.
Voucher affordability by neighborhood (see here for 2018 boundaries):
Generally, speaking, we encourage families with vouchers to search for housing in the price limits in the below table based on the location of the unit. So, for example, a family with a 2-bedroom unit should look for housing up to $855 in Tier 1 areas and up to $945 in Tier 2 areas.
Use the Address Locator Tool to look up which tier a property is in and if it qualifies for the Mobility Connection program. The search tool will also provide the user with the estimated rental price limit for that neighborhood. The numbers provide an estimated rental price a Housing Choice Voucher family with no income can afford.
Price limit by location for families with vouchers:
There are two important factors to keep in mind. First, families with income may choose to look above the established price limit because they can pay a larger portion of the rent. Second, although the price limit helps families figure out how much they can afford based on the location, the rental price agreed upon between the Housing Authority and the property owner must be based on the fair market rate. The Housing Authority will look at comparable units in the area (based on amenities, size, and type of unit) to make sure that the rental amount the property owner requests is a fair price based on the market.
What are the High Opportunity Areas? Where are they?
High opportunity areas are defined by census tracts (basically neighborhoods) in St. Louis City and County where 10 percent or less of the families live in poverty and 10 percent or less of the housing units in the tract are subsidized. The determination is based on data from the most recently available American Community Survey 5-year estimates or the Decennial Census and the Picture of Subsidized Housing (PIC) data aggregated by HUD.
The map below shows all the High Opportunity Areas in blue.
What barriers exist for families with vouchers moving into High Opportunity Areas?
Many families with vouchers do not live in high opportunity neighborhoods. Some of the barriers that keep families from living in these neighborhoods include:
A general lack of understanding about the opportunities that exist for families with vouchers
Apprehension from families about moving away from their community
Small or low-tech housing search processes
A lack of affordable housing in high opportunity neighborhoods
Discrimination against families with vouchers
A lack of participation and awareness of the HCV program among property owners and managers
High application fees and large security deposits
Very strict application criteria
Where is Mobility Connection Located?
The primary Mobility Connection offices are located at the St. Louis City Housing Authority at 3520 Page Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63106.
The program staff have secondary offices at the Housing Authority of St. Louis County as well, located at 8865 Natural Bridge Rd. St. Louis, MO 63121.
I have a voucher and I am interested in the program. Who should I contact?
The best person to contact is your client analyst or case worker at the Housing Authority because they will know what steps your family needs to take before you can consider moving and help you fill out the Interest Form.
If you have already talked to your client analyst or case worker and filled out an Interest Form, the Lead Housing Counselor, Janie Oliphant, will reach out to you to discuss the program details and set up a meeting.
What are the screening criteria for families?
Only families who meet the screening criteria and who currently have a Housing Choice Voucher from the City or the County housing authority are eligible to participate in the program. Applicants will undergo a background check before they can enroll in the program. Eligibility is based on the below criteria:
Criminal history: Applicants and adult members convicted of the following crimes in the last ten years will be ineligible for mobility counseling services:
Drug manufacturing or distribution
Three or more convictions of drug possession
Concealed weapons possession
Rental history: Previous rental history will be considered for the applicant. Applicants with any of these behaviors will be ineligible for services:
In the last three years: Any judgements for failure to pay rent for those applicants who had a housing voucher during those years
In the last five years: Evictions unrelated to tenant’s inability to pay rent, including:
Violation of the term of the lease agreement by the tenant
Excessive damages caused to the rental property by the tenant or persons under the tenant’s control
The tenant has failed to correct a violation of laws concerning public nuisance, sanitation, unlawful business, or habitually causes warnings to be issued with corrections made
No current debts to a Public Housing Authority.
Applicants must have an adult member of the household who can put the utilities in their name.
Are there any mitigating circumstances or exceptions for the elgibility criteria for clients?
Yes, mitigating circumstances include but are not limited to:
Current in a repayment plan with the Housing Authority for whom a debt is owed
Unsuitable rental history: Evidence of improved behavior since the infraction(s)
Drug use: evidence of complete rehabilitation or current rehabilitation
Sources of information may be from: the applicant, property owner, employers, social workers, parole officers, court records, drug treatment centers, clinics, physicians or policed departments.
I want to do my own housing search. What are the best resources to search for housing in High Opporunity Areas?
The easiest way to look for housing on the private rental market is through online search engines. The websites we most typically use are:
These websites allow you to enter search terms for the amount of rent your family can afford and the number of bedrooms you are looking for. You can also draw on the map to limit the search to certain neighborhoods.
Make sure to avoid getting scammed: Never pay an upfront fee to see a unit or to be added to a waitlist. Never pay a deposit before you have toured a unit or signed a lease.
I may have a unit in a High Opportunity Area. How can I check?
Use the Address Locator Tool to look up if a property is in a High Opportunity Area and qualifies for the Mobility Connection program. The search tool will also provide the user with an estimated rent range in that area. The numbers provide an estimated range of rents a Housing Choice Voucher family with no income can afford.