EDITORIAL: ‘Voucher Flaws Fuel Poverty.’
Housing charade keeps poor people poor
If you are poor in Dallas, affordable housing can be a ticking time bomb. Landlords can raise the rent, or even worse, reject federal housing assistance vouchers that are supposed to allow those at or below the poverty line to obtain affordable shelter. It’s a sad scenario that this editorial board has heard repeatedly during our work on both the Bridging Dallas’ North-South Gap and Finding Lifelines for the Working Poor projects.
Now, a compelling story from
Dallas Morning News reporters Sarah Mervosh and Julieta Chiquillo spotlights a major reason poverty in Dallas has increased 42 percent in the past 15 years. For many with few options, a broken housing voucher system consumes what little money the poor have for housing and too often launches them toward eviction and homelessness.
Robin Bobo found himself turned away from several apartments. Despite a steady job at a hospital and good references, he discovered landlords didn’t want to mess with a federal Section 8 housing voucher. The voucher would allow him to pay substantially less than market rates, and the federal government would make up the difference.
After months of rejection, he’s trying to make ends meet while living at a market rate complex whose rent eats up more than half of his paycheck. The voucher, he says amounts to “a piece of paper that’s basically worthless right now.”
Being poor shouldn’t provide an excuse for landlords to turn their backs on people who could afford an apartment and look forward to a better life if only they were allowed to tap resources that supposedly are available to them. A survey by the nonprofit Inclusive Communities Project, which has sued the state over this issue, found that only 13 percent of private apartment complexes in Dallas accept housing vouchers. And it’s a national problem, too.
Dallas must commit to ending rental discrimination
against Section 8 holders and find ways to ease access to affordable housing. The Dallas City Council tried last year but bumped up against a 2015 state law that blocked cities from requiring landlords receiving city aid to let applicants count vouchers as part of their income. The city needs to fight to get that law overturned.
This housing charade helps keep poor people poor. And that will hurt not just poor people, but all of us. The city’s already dismal opportunities for the working poor to lift themselves toward a better life will worsen. Generational poverty will persist, and massive neighborhood economic inequality will continue to separate the poor from jobs and better schools. It also chases away new investment and depresses the tax base, something this city can no longer afford to ignore.
Dallas must resolve to confront housing issues that breed poverty and hurt efforts to bridge economic and racial gaps. Our city’s future depends on it.
Robin Bobo had to leave the Section 8 program because he could not find an acceptable apartment complex that would take his housing voucher.