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How the HCV Program Works

The Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly known as Section 8) may be able to assist you with your rent each month.  How do you know if you are eligible for the Housing Choice Voucher Program?  Your first step is to apply to be on the Housing Choice Voucher Waiting List.  The Columbia Housing Authority Waiting List is only open for applications once every 2-3 years or as funding is available. During the week the list is open, thousands will apply to participate in the program.

The HCV Waiting List is currently closed and only opens every 2-3 years. The Waiting List took in over 1500 applications, and when the Waiting List opens, anyone from anywhere may apply to our Housing Choice Voucher program 

CHA will advertise on this website prior to opening the waiting list.  The list will be open for one week and you will be able to apply at any time that week between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.  There is no need to camp out to be first in line! The list is compiled by a lottery system, which means the chances of being first on the list are just as good as the chances of being last, no matter when in the week you apply.  CHA does have preferences on the list for working families, persons with disabilities, and elderly persons – these families move up the list more quickly.

Verification of these preferences must be supplied to receive the preference. To obtain the working preference the head-of-household or co-head must supply verification of being employed at least 20 hours a week for at least 60 consecutive days. This employment must be effective at the time you come to the top of the Waiting List. For person with disabilities the head-of-household or co-head must supply written documentation (i.e. social security or supplement security income print out) from the agencies office.

Once you are at the top of the list, HCV staff will send you a letter for an appointment to determine your eligibility. Please be sure to keep your address updated with Columbia Housing Authority at all times as most of intake communication is done by USPS. Eligibility is based upon your household income, the criminal history of all members of the household, and whether or not you or anyone in your household owes any monies to any other Housing Authority or has been terminated from assistance or evicted from a Public Housing Agency within the past five years.

Once your eligibility is verified, all new participants are required to attend an HCV briefing. The purpose of the briefing is to provide you with all the information you need to be a successful HCV participant. At the briefing, you will receive your voucher. Below is a summary of the information that will be covered at the briefing.

Using Your Voucher

  • Your voucher is an agreement between you and CHA. When you sign your voucher, you are agreeing to abide by the Family Obligations for the program.  In exchange, CHA will assist you with your rent, provided that you find an approved place within the time limit.
  • You must find a rental unit and submit a Request for Tenancy Approval before your voucher expires. If you don’t, the voucher will be issued to someone else from the waiting list, and you will be required to re-apply when the list opens again. You may be eligible for an extension, but it must be requested in writing 2 weeks before the original expiration date and submitted to the HCV program director.
  • If you or the new unit landlord do not agree on tenancy, or the selected unit does not pass a CHA Housing Quality Standards (HQS) inspection, you will be given back the un-expired time on your voucher to search for another unit.
  • Your voucher is valid anywhere in Boone County.  After you have fulfilled your initial 12-month rental lease in this county, you may be able to transfer your voucher to anywhere in the United States including Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and the U.S. Virgin Islands providing you are in good standing with CHA. Those that lived in Boone County at the time of the initial application pay part as soon as voucher is received.

Finding a Home

  • You may choose to use your voucher for the unit you are currently living in.  This is called “leasing in place.”
  • You may also search public listings for available apartments that participate in the HCV program or those that are interested in the program.
  • Remember that you will be signing a 12-month lease with the owner. Make sure that the unit is in good condition and that you will be able to afford your portion of the rent.
  • Consider the neighborhood. Talk to the neighbors. Is it safe? What schools will your children be going to? What are the average utilities for the unit? Check out nearby shopping and access to public transportation.
  • If you select a unit built before 1978, it may contain lead. Read the brochure enclosed with the HCV Briefing packet and follow the steps listed on the back to protect your family from lead.

Applying for A Place to Live

  • Most landlords will require you to complete an application. Be sure you are prepared to complete the form by having the names, addresses, and phone numbers of your references with you. Many landlords will charge you a fee with the application to cover the expense of having your references checked. Columbia Housing Authority will not reimburse for this fee.
  • The landlord may check with CHA to verify your current and prior addresses and landlords. CHA is required to provide this information along with information about complaints or notices.
  • The landlord may charge you a deposit. The HCV program does not pay the deposit for you.  Your landlord is not allowed to charge you more than one month’s contract rent for your deposit.
  • Most landlords have established standards for accepting or denying an applicant. Standards may include things such as a minimum number of past landlord references, sufficient income to pay rent, good credit history, no felony convictions, no prior evictions, etc. If you believe that you have been denied housing for a reason other than a reasonable standard, you may be a victim of unlawful housing discrimination. The HCV Briefing packet contains information about Fair Housing laws and a copy of HUD’s Housing Discrimination Complaint form

Completing the Approval Process

  • Once you have found your unit and you and the landlord has agreed to enter into a lease,the landlord will complete the landlord packet, and they will then return the packet to your case manager at 201 Switzler Street, Columbia MO 65203.
  • The completed paperwork will be evaluated for rent reasonableness and client affordability and sent to CHA’s Inspection Team. An inspection will be scheduled with the landlord.  The landlord must be present at the inspection. If the residence needs repairs, the landlord and client will be given a list of what needs to be done by mail. The landlord must submit in writing a request for another inspection when the repairs are completed within 15 days. Unless you are leasing in place, do not move into the unit or sign a lease until it passes inspection.
  • After the unit passes the inspection, and the rent the landlord requests is approved, and verification of utilities are turned in, your case manager will prepare the HAP contract. The signed documents need to be returned to the CHA case manager.  If everything is in order, your case manager will complete the paperwork and enter the information into the CHA computer system. CHA will not pay rent until the start date of the Housing Assistance Payments contract.
  • Your landlord will receive the first check within one to three weeks. CHA payments will be paid on the first of each month.

Following the Rules

  • The Family Obligations Form and the voucher contain the complete list of all the rules, obligations, and requirements you must follow to avoid losing your housing assistance.
  • Some examples of reasons that could cause you to lose your housing assistance include: failing to pay the tenant portion of the rent; engaging in drug-related or violent criminal activity; failing to report, in writing, any changes in household size; failing to report any income for any adult in the household; failing to abide by the terms of the lease; damaging the unit or causing disturbances, etc. You may lose your voucher if you are evicted. If you are evicted or receive an eviction or termination notice, you must provide CHA with a copy of the notice.
  • If CHA has evidence that you have violated your obligations, we may decide to terminate your participation. If this happens you will be mailed a letter stating the reason(s) for the decision. You may then request an informal hearing regarding that decision. Requests for informal hearings must be in writing.


Rights and Responsibilities



The CHA is accepting applications for the newly renovated Bear Creek Apartments.
• 1, 2, 3, & 4 Bedroom Units Available
• Modern Newly Renovated Units
• Rent Based on Income *
• Low Initial Security Deposit
• Energy Efficient & New Appliances
• Washer & Dryer Hookups
• Park & Laundry Facility
• Resident Services & Family Self-Sufficiency Programs
* Qualified applicants must be low-income.

Apply now at:

The Columbia Housing Authority
201 Switzler Street, Columbia
(573) 443-2556

You Should Know

CHA provides housing assistance to over 1,900 families in Columbia and Boone County.

Families pay 30% of their adjusted household income for rent.

Our Family Self-Sufficiency Programs help families develop five-year plans for self-sufficiency.

Contact Us

201 Switzler St.
Columbia, MO 65201
(573) 443-2556 phone
(800) 735-2966 TTY Relay