In California Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers CAUSE You To Be
Homeless - The Total Failure Of A Housing Program!
By Carla Lee
- Landlords won't accept them because they are punished with extra rules
if they do. There are no reasonable incentives for landlords to
participate and every reason for them not to participate. HUD must
increase the cash and tax incentives for landlords.
- The Section 8 program does not screen for meth and heroin use so the
10% of Section 8 people on drugs create a bad reputation that ruins it for
the 90% that are not on drugs. HUD and the County must blood test for
- People with excellent credit scores, perfect landlord references, nice
personalities, a lifetime of past work and the ability to fix their own
rental units are lumped in with gang members and deviants. There should be
a "Gold Star" rating for high-quality applicants.
- There is no centralized rent board to find all of the Section 8
offerings. The State must fund and build such a web based rent board,
properly staff it and advertise it.
- California does not support pre-fab homes, glampers, RV's or other
modern housing systems because the Unions, builders and real estate agents
lobby against them for competitive purposes.Public officials must be
arrested for taking bribes from these anti-affordable housing groups.
- Google, Facebook, Netflix, Linkedin, Twitter, Tesla, etc. and the Tech
Mafia have lobbied to take over, bus into and ransack the local housing
system because they have anti-trust violating monopolistic power, armies
of lobbyists and they pay bribes to everyone.While minor rules have been
applied to them for media optics, nothing has been required of them to
offset the tens of thousands of housing losses they have caused. Google,
Facebook, Netflix, Linkedin, Twitter, Tesla, etc. and the Tech Mafia must
be forced to pay double the amount allocated for a Section 8 voucher in
- In the crisis areas of California the Tech Mafia has forced the rents
to be so high that the current Section 8 voucher amounts can't pay for any
of the rents. Section 8 Vouchers in Northern California and the LA basin
must pay at least $2000.00 of the person's rent or there is now no
possibility for anyone to rent anything. The Tech Mafia must be required
to pay at least half of the subsidy.
-There is zero transparency in the 'Waiting List' programs and the Lists
are tainted with bribes to officials, sex-for-Section-8, Political bias,
reprisal delays and other unfair process. List transparency and
standardized metrics must be deployed.
- There is enough property available to build and house four times as
many people as those who currently need Section 8 but counties won't issue
the permits to allow green, sustainable pre-fab builders to build those
modern, safe, classy, pre-fab units because they would break the existing
crony, payola, bribe kick-back schemes that Supervisors and Mayors get in
many counties. The State must order the counties to issue the permits and
begin immediate punitive lawsuits against the individuals and counties who
do not issue those permits within the next 14 days.
- It is cheaper for HUD and California to allow Californians to use their
vouchers to pay mortgages and buy homes at the 3% down first-time buyer
rate but HUD and California hide this potential, refuse to enhance this
potential and fund no outreach or banking programs to provide this
potential. Financiers say that HUD and the State of California
"DIS-INCENTIVIZE" financiers from helping buyers buy homes with their
vouchers. In almost every case the monthly rate of a purchased home is
less than the monthly rate of a rented apartment at San Francisco rates.
- The raw criminality and bribery in HUD and County offices is
staggering. The FBI must be ordered to conduct a deep investigation of
California housing bribes, skims and stock market payola.
- Town Hall public meetings are no more than PR optics sessions that
pretend to be offering solutions but never end with any hard plans being
committed to by officials. Public officials, at these meetings, nod their
heads, put on pretend "concerned faces" and then leave the meetings and do
nothing. The public must confront every official at these meetings and
say: "What will you either promise to do within 60 days or resign if
you don't?" THESE OFFICIALS ARE YOUR EMPLOYEES. THEY LIVE IN FANCY
CONDOS AND MANSIONS THAT YOU PAY FOR. DEMAND THAT THEY RESIGN IF THEY
DON'T GET YOU YOUR FAIR HOUSING!
How Housing Policy Is Failing America's
Section 8 was intended to
help people escape poverty, but instead it’s trapping them in it.
When a woman in McKinney, Texas, told Tatiana Rhodes and
her friends to “go back to your Section 8 homes” at a public pool
earlier this month, she inadvertently spoke volumes about the
failure of a program that was designed to help America’s poor.
Created by Congress in 1974, the “Section 8” Housing
Choice Voucher Program was supposed to help families move out of
broken urban neighborhoods to places where they could live without
the constant threat of violence and their kids could attend good
But somewhere along the way, “Section 8” became a
colloquialism for housing that is, to many, indistinguishable from
the public-housing properties the program was designed to help
How did this happen? To begin with, Section 8 is poorly
designed. It works like this: Families lucky enough to get off
lengthy waiting lists are allowed to look for apartments up to a
certain rent, which varies for each metro region. This figure is
called the “fair market rent,” and is calculated by HUD every year
for each metro area. The tenant pays about 30 percent of his income,
and the voucher covers the rest of the rent (this is based on
the idea that families should not spend more than one-third of their
income on rent).
But the fair market rent cut-off point often consigns
voucher-holders to impoverished neighborhoods. This is in part
because of how that number is calculated: HUD draws the line at the
40th percentile of rents for “typical” units occupied by “recent
movers” in an entire metropolitan area, which includes far-flung
suburbs with long commutes and, as a result, makes the Fair Market
Rent relatively low. In New York City, for example, the Fair Market
Rent for a one-bedroom is $1,249, a price that would relegate
voucher-holders to the
neighborhood of Brownsville in Brooklyn, one of the most
dangerous places in the city, and where the most public housing is
Technically, voucher holders can live
anywhere in a region that meets the price restrictions. But the
tendency is for people to stay in neighborhoods that are familiar
to them, though a few areas have created robust
mobility-counseling programs to try and mitigate this.
Additionally, as Eva Rosen has
detailed, landlords in low-income areas aggressively recruit
voucher-holders, as the vouchers are a much more reliable source of
rent than other low-income tenants have available.
The failings of Section 8 go far beyond flaws in how the
program was designed to how the the states have implemented it.
People can argue all they want about the merits of subsidized
housing, but given that Section 8 exists, it would seem advantageous
for states and municipalities to take advantage of federal funds to
help families find better housing. But many states seem especially
determined to keep voucher-holders in areas of concentrated poverty.
“The whole idea of Section 8 in the beginning was that it
was going to allow people to get out of the ghetto,” said Mike
Daniel, a lawyer for the Inclusive Communities Project, told me.
(Daniel has sued HUD over the way it is carrying out the program in
Dallas.) “But there’s tremendous political pressure on housing
authorities and HUD to not let it become an instrument of
For example, in much of the country, landlords can refuse
to take Section 8 vouchers, even if the voucher covers the rent.
And, unlike the landlords in poor neighborhoods in Eva Rosen’s
study, many landlords of buildings in nicer neighborhoods will do
anything to keep voucher-holders out. The result is that Section 8
traps families in the poorest neighborhoods.
study in Austin found that there were plenty of apartments
around the city that voucher-holders could afford. But only a small
portion of those apartments would rent to voucher-holders.
The report, by the Austin Tenant’s Council, found that
78,217 units in the Austin metro area—about 56 percent of those
surveyed—had rents within the Fair Market Rent limits. But only
8,590 of those units accepted vouchers and did not have minimum
income requirements for tenants. Most were located on the east side
of Austin, in high-poverty areas with underperforming schools and
high crime rates. (The survey only looked at apartment complexes
with at least 50 units.)
“Families don't have very many choices as to where they
can actually use the voucher,” said Nekesha Phoenix, the Fair
Housing Program Director at the Austin Tenants’ Council. “Although
there are properties north and west that they could actually afford
to live in, they can't do it because the properties won't take the
Some cities have tried to prevent this. Last year Austin
passed a “Source of Income” ordinance that prohibited landlords from
refusing to rent to people solely because they have a voucher. And
12 states, as well as the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco,
Washington D.C., Chicago, and Philadelphia have all done the same.
But in Austin the landlords successfully pushed back. The
Austin Apartment Association sued the city over the ordinance,
asking for an injunction to block it. The apartment owners say that
being forced to accept Section 8 meant more paperwork, onerous lease
terms, and “burdensome
inspections.” (Section 8 properties have to be inspected to
ensure they are sanitary and safe.)
After a district judge left the law standing, the Texas
legislature in May passed a
bill banning any municipality from passing Source of Income
ordinances. Source of Income discrimination will once again become
legal in Austin when the state law goes into effect in September.
“A housing authority that on its own set out to use
housing choice voucher as an instrument of desegregation would be
brought to its knees by the elected officials of the cities that
they’re in,” Daniel told me.
Why do some landlords try so hard to attract
voucher-holders and others try so hard to avoid them? Section 8
tenants pay the rent reliably and stay in apartments for longer than
market-rate tenants, according to Isabelle Headrick, the executive
director of Accessible Housing Austin!, who is also a property
owner. Though the apartment owners’ lobby had said that Section 8
requires landlords to sign a 400-page document and makes it more
difficult to evict tenants, Headrick says that the contract is only
12 pages, and that the inspections required are “no more difficult
than what a responsible landlord should be doing anyway.”
“Having Section 8 tenants makes my job easier, not
harder,” she said.
But in Dallas, the Inclusive Communities Project found
that some landlords who owned many units throughout the city would
rent to voucher-holders in low-income neighborhoods, but not in
high-income neighborhoods, even if the tenants could afford both
apartments. Though the landlords would say they refused the vouchers
because they didn’t want to deal with the paperwork, housing
advocates say that property owners don’t want Section 8 tenants
(read: minorities) in buildings because they might drive away
The Inclusive Communities Project sued HUD over the way
it calculated Fair Market Rents in Dallas. It is now trying to make
an arrangement with Dallas-area landlords so that it can rent
apartments from them and then sublease them to Section 8 tenants,
taking away landlords’ excuses for not wanting to deal with Section
8 paperwork. (Daniel also sued the Texas Department of Housing and
Community Affairs over how it distributed tax credits for low-income
housing, a case the Supreme Court will rule on
in the next few days.)
“The idea that Section 8 people should be required to
stay in areas of slum and blight—at some point they’re going to
realize that’s just racial segregation,” Daniel told me.
Often, voucher-holders in Austin have such a hard time
finding housing that they need to ask for multiple extensions to
find housing. Tenants lose the voucher if they don’t use it in 60 to
David Wittie, a voucher-holder in Austin, ran into this
problem when he was looking for a new place last year. Wittie called
around and found a few places that said they took vouchers. But by
the time he got on a bus and arrived at the apartment building to
sign a lease, the units would be rented. Wittie, who has been in a
wheelchair since he contracted from polio in 1956, said that he had
to ask for three extensions before he found a place.
“All I wanted was to find a nice place to live,” he told
In cities such as Austin, where rents are rapidly rising
because of an influx of new, affluent residents, voucher holders may
be having even tougher times finding a place to rent because the
cost of housing has gotten so expensive. There are no rent-control
laws in the state of Texas, and rents in Austin have gone up 7
percent over the past year, making it nearly impossible to
find a place that is affordable with a voucher.
The result is that voucher-holders are pushed farther out
from a city’s core, and into buildings that are dilapidated and have
multiple code violations: In 2012, city enforcement officers ordered
an apartment complex in Austin evacuated after a second-floor
and then collapsed. Officials blamed termite damage, and said
the low-income and Section 8 voucher-holders were hesitant to report
unsafe conditions because they knew how hard it was to find an
affordable place to live and didn’t want to be evicted.
Rufus Jones, a 51-year-old visually-impaired
voucher-holder, had to look for a new apartment two years ago when
the building where he’d lived for 13 years was sold to a new owner
who quickly raised the rent. After months of searching, Jones moved
into a place that soon became nightmarish when he discovered it was
infested with cockroaches. The apartment was located in a noisy
building where the hot water often didn’t work and where the sewage
pipes leaked, but the final straw came when a roach crawled into
Jones’s ear when he was sleeping and he had to go to the ER to get
It took Jones a long time to find the place he now lives,
since fewer and fewer apartments would accept vouchers. But when I
visited him at the apartment, a low-slung building on the far north
side of Austin, he told me it wasn’t much better.
His new place is infested with rodents, which crawl into
his bedroom and bathroom through holes in the wall, waking Jones’s
service dog and Jones himself. Jones’s current place is only on one
bus line, and he’s now once again going through the process of
finding his way around a new neighborhood.
“It’s just so horrible right now—I can’t sleep, and I’m
stressed out the whole time,” he told me.
* * *
The Housing Choice Voucher program is the nation’s
largest housing subsidy, serving 2.2 million families, which is
still only about 25 percent of eligible households. It makes up a
big part of the government’s efforts to improve housing conditions
for America’s poorest families. Advocates have called time and
again for HUD to alter the Housing Choice Voucher program to make it
a better tool for families to improve their lots in life, and some
changes are afoot.
“There’s a growing recognition that there’s a shortage of
affordable housing, and that families with vouchers have a hard time
using them in neighborhoods and communities that haven’t
traditionally had voucher families in them,” said Phil Tegeler, the
executive director of the Poverty & Race Research Action
As the result of a settlement, HUD tested a new program
in Dallas and a few other metro areas that calculates fair market
rent based on zip codes, rather than for a metro area as a whole.
Called the Small Area Fair Market Rent Program, the idea is to make
the voucher more valuable to landlords in nicer neighborhoods. Under
the program, if a voucher holder wants to rent a place in the 75231
zip code, the Vickery Park area of Dallas, the voucher would support
a rent up to $580 for a one-bedroom. Vickery Park is a lower-income
area that gained notoriety as the home of America’s first Ebola
victim. But if a voucher holder wants to rent an apartment in
Forney, Texas, zip code 75126, the voucher would cover rent of a
one-bedroom up to $1,090. Forney has some of the lowest crime rates
in the state, and has also been designated the “Antique Capital of
out of Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies found that the
Dallas small-area fair market rent program was successful in helping
voucher families move to neighborhoods with lower violent-crime
rates and lower poverty rates. Kathy O’Regan, HUD’s Assistant
Secretary for Policy Development and Research, told me that the
results of that study motivated HUD to use small-area Fair Market
Rents in more areas. Earlier this month, HUD sought
comments the idea of potentially changing the way Fair Market
Rents are calculated.
“We agree with critics—we believe that we should be able
to do better,” she told me. “It doesn’t look from geographic
patterns as though households are getting enough choice.”
A HUD study also found that public housing authorities are
significantly underfunded when it comes to managing Section 8.
Administrative costs, which are used to pay for mobility counseling, have
been limited by Congress. HUD is asking
Congress to consider changing the limits on administrative costs for
“We want to give households choice, choices that help them in
improving their lives,” she said.
If Section 8 can be fixed, it’ll be money well spent. The
government spends billions of dollars each year creating a program that,
for some families, is akin to winning the lottery. But what’s the point of
winning the lottery if there’s nowhere safe to spend it?
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