ED­I­TO­RIAL: ‘Voucher Flaws Fuel Poverty.’

Hous­ing cha­rade keeps poor peo­ple poor

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page -

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.

Staff Photo

Robin Bobo had to leave the Sec­tion 8 pro­gram be­cause he could not find an ac­cept­able apart­ment com­plex that would take his hous­ing voucher.

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