How vouch­ers work

What are hous­ing vouch­ers?

The Dallas Morning News - - World -

The Sec­tion 8 voucher pro­gram uses fed­eral dol­lars to help low-in­come fam­i­lies rent apart­ments or houses from pri­vate land­lords.

The fam­ily pays 30 per­cent of its in­come to­ward rent and util­i­ties, while the fed­eral gov­ern­ment cov­ers the rest.

The pro­gram is dif­fer­ent from tra­di­tional pub­lic hous­ing, i.e. gov­ern­ment-owned build­ings, typ­i­cally in poor neigh­bor­hoods. How much will the voucher cover? In the Dal­las area, the gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates a fair price for rent based on a unit’s ZIP code and num­ber of bed­rooms.

For a two-bed­room in east Oak Cliff, for ex­am­ple, the com­bined price that the renter and the hous­ing author­ity should pay is $780. In the trendy neigh­bor­hood of Oak Lawn, it’s $1,360.

Pos­si­ble so­lu­tions

OP­TION 1: Make it il­le­gal to dis­crim­i­nate against fam­i­lies with vouch­ers.

Why: Across the coun­try, cities have passed or­di­nances that re­quire land­lords to ac­cept vouch­ers, with some suc­cess. In Chicago and San Fran­cisco, ad­vo­cates say, the law al­lows them to con­front land­lords about dis­crim­i­na­tion — and many times, that’s enough to change prop­erty own­ers’ minds about rent­ing to a poor fam­ily.

Why not: Dal­las con­sid­ered pass­ing such an or­di­nance, but de­cided against it be­cause of state law. Texas and at least one other state, In­di­ana, say cities can­not force land­lords to ac­cept vouch­ers.

OP­TION 2: Sublease to voucher hold­ers through fair-hous­ing groups.

Why: This ar­range­ment, of­fered by The In­clu­sive Com­mu­ni­ties Project, ad­dresses some prob­lems raised by land­lords, such as pa­per­work and fi­nan­cial has­sles. In­stead of rent­ing to fam­i­lies di­rectly, land­lords lease to ICP, which sub­leases to fam­i­lies. The non­profit agrees to pay the land­lord on time, re­gard­less of ad­min­is­tra­tive de­lays with the gov­ern­ment. Land­lords also get a fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive: an ex­tra month’s rent just for par­tic­i­pat­ing.

Why not: At least one land­lord has suc­cess­fully ar­gued in fed­eral court that the sublease pro­gram could un­fairly prompt law­suits against rental com­pa­nies. The land­lord said that if prop­er­ties ac­cept voucher hold­ers who are rep­re­sented by ICP, but not other fam­i­lies with vouch­ers, prospec­tive ten­ants could ac­cuse them of dis­crim­i­na­tion.

OP­TION 3: Cre­ate an of­fi­cial list of com­plexes that ac­cept vouch­ers.

Why: Fam­i­lies com­plain that lists of par­tic­i­pat­ing land­lords, pro­vided by agen­cies like the Dal­las Hous­ing Author­ity, are out­dated. Mean­while, some land­lords say they have units avail­able, but no one’s asked. Land­lords and hous­ing au­thor­i­ties could work to­gether to cre­ate one com­pre­hen­sive re­source.

Why not: Dal­las agen­cies that is­sue vouch­ers worry about le­gal li­a­bil­ity, be­cause of­fi­cials can’t fun­nel busi­ness to spe­cific prop­er­ties. Mean­while, land­lords say it’s not their re­spon­si­bil­ity to find hous­ing for low-in­come fam­i­lies.

And> Ja­cob­sohn/Staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

LLMb:aTNiYawTTILSa GLFR out­side Robin Bobo’s old apart­ment was part of the rea­son he had to move. CcbLWalLMb:aDTGiSa ATGTaRTvLI into a two-bed­room apart­ment in earl> Septem­ber that he will pa> for with­out the gov­ern­ment’s help. He de­cided to leave the Sec­tion 8 pro­gram af­ter not be­ing able to find an ac­cept­able apart­ment com­plex that would take his hous­ing voucher.

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