The Los Angeles County Votes to Stop Discrimination Against Section 8 Tenants
For millions of those homeless Americans, teetering on the edge of homelessness, housing vouchers offered by the federally funded Section 8 housing program, are supposed to be an opportunity into safe, stable and hygienic housing. Federal Section 8 vouchers and other shapes of rental assistance use American taxpayers’ dollars to make up the difference between what a person can afford to pay and the rent they’re being charged.
At a time when cities and counties are more and more relying on these vouchers to help reduce homelessness, many house owners won’t even consider leasing to tenants whose partial rent would be paid by the government. The dilemma is mainly grave in localities where the rents are high and the vacancy rate is considerably lower.
In Los Angeles, California, nearly 50 percent of face situation where the landlords refuse to lease their houses to them, consequently these beneficiaries have to lose the assistance, which is time bound.
- Earlier in June 2019, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors officially adopted an ordinance that will ban the landlords in unincorporated areas from discriminating against potential tenants with Section 8 housing program and other housing subsidies. It makes illegal for house owners in the urban areas to turn away probable tenants using government-funded housing vouchers. The measure will take effect in July 2019
- The ordinance exempts nursing, retirement homes and units where the owner or his family must share a bathroom or kitchen with a tenant.
- This ordinance is adopted at a time when over 60,000 Section 8 participants of the county are struggling to find housing units, policymakers are pushing landlords who are reluctant to take Section 8 vouchers.
- One of the board members said maintained that the present discrimination in housing is the cause of aggravation of homelessness crisis as by permitting house owners to differentiate and deny leases to families who want and can pay for housing,
- Federal Section 8 housing vouchers are offered to low-income households and pay rental assistance to landlords to make up for the difference between what the tenant can afford and market rates of the monthly rent. The ordinance, in practice, will not force landlords to rent to an assistance recipient, but simply prevent ruling them out as a tenant-based exclusively on their source of income.
- The 1968 Fair Housing Act also prohibits discrimination, even then the statistics in a survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) show that the Section 8 vouchers are denied in 76% of cases by the landlords of Los Angeles County landlords.
- In recent years, voucher reception rates have been so low in Los Angeles that almost half of recipients in the federal Section 8 program end up losing their vouchers because of they of their inability to find housing units accepting Section 8 vouchers.
- Landlord rejections are also jamming efforts by service providers across the city to house the growing number of homeless people in L.A.
- Los Angeles County Development Authority Executive Director in a letter to the board informed that choices were already insufficient due to a 3% vacancy rate and about over 38,000 people on the waiting list for Section 8 housing in the county, and a prolonged average wait time is two to four years, according to the official estimates.
- About 45% of homeless veterans with federal housing these vouchers are able to find an apartment in Los Angeles, according to the Housing Authority of the City. It is also reported that a voucher system managed by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority through the Rapid Re-Housing program is “rapid” in name only — households spend an average of 92 days waiting to enter the housing.
House owners’ viewpoint
Landlords’ point of view of the other hand is that the denial rates aren’t determined by discrimination but by the official procedure involved, scrutiny and limitations that come with rental subsidy programs. For example, it is very difficult to raise the rent, even at a modest percentage, on voucher tenants. It is beside the fact that the theoretical “market rent” the federal government is willing to cover is also too low in California’s bullish markets, where the there is already deficiency in affordable housing units.
These are genuine apprehension and HUD with other housing agencies are required to lessen the bureaucratic hurdles for landlords and make sure voucher-assisted rents are close to the market rates for high-cost cities, like Los Angeles.
- According to the official calculated evaluation of California Housing Partnership Corporation, LA County has a deficiency of approximately 517,000 low-cost housing units.
- The ordinance will cover other federally funded rental assistance, besides Section 8, the county’s Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool – planned for destitute individuals with complicated health problems — and rapid re-housing rental assistance.
- County legislative advocates are also staving for a similar statewide strategy as proposed by Senate Bill 329, along with bans at the state level on rental rate hike and forced evictions without reason.
But California can’t end housing discrimination problem on a city-by-city basis. The lawmakers of the State need to go further and pass recently proposed Senate Bill 329, which would enforce the ban statewide. In theory, the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act already make it illegal for landlords to discriminate on the basis of a tenant’s paying source, but the prohibition doesn’t cover subsidies or vouchers that go straight to the landlord. The SB329 would make clear that landlords cannot reject Section 8 or similar subsidized tenants.
Landlords would be required to treat tenants with rental assistance the same way they’d treat other probable tenants. Landowners would still be able to monitor tenants for rental or credit history, check references and set other common standards for the safety of the neighborhood and their property. The State and local housing authorities should increase motivations for low-cost house owners who are ready to accept Section 8 or Similar housing vouchers.