Sunday, April 23, 2017

A student reacts to the Housing Choice Voucher Program

This is one of very few student reaction papers that discusses the housing choice voucer program.
The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program was initially started to get low income families out of impoverished areas and into better areas and into better schools.  The program goes by a fair market rent.  That is, a family is to pay no more than 30% of their income in rent and the voucher will cover the rest of the cost.  The fair market rent is evaluated every year by HUD.  The voucher program serves about five million families and that is only about 25% of eligible families.  The Housing Choice Voucher Program is failing because the idea that it was built around is seemingly not working like they hoped that it would.  

When a person is lucky enough to get off of the long waitlist that the program has, they then in turn have to find a landlord that is willing to accept the voucher.  Just because a person gets on the program does not guarantee housing or guarantee that the landlord will accept the voucher, and this ability of landlords to refuse to participate keeps families in impoverished areas.  Landlords do not want the hassle of having the inspections the voucher program requires.  The voucher program has been given a bad name because of the costly repairs that the landlords have to make after a tenant has moved out.

  And yet some landlords in these impoverished areas seek out to rent to families with the Section 8 voucher.  The rent of someone with the voucher is a more reliable source of rent than someone that is not on the program.  A lot of families will stay in these areas because it is familiar areas for them and they will often take the first place that will rent to them given they are given a time limit to find a place to live or they will lose the voucher.  

The idea behind the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program is a good one.  It however cannot guarantee that a family will be able to move out of impoverished areas in hope for a better opportunity at living and schools.  It can however guarantee housing for families that are eligible.

Let us examine some of the principles of providing housing subsidies:

1) People have a human right to have a home, and homelessness is a violation of human rights.
2) Housing prices are often so high that people who work cannot afford housing; and many people are unable to work, so they obviously cannot afford housing.
3) There is no policy that forces the government to provide housing.  The government can screen who receives housing vouchers, and can take away housing vouchers if a recipient breaks program rules.
4) Landlords own the properties they would rent to tenants, and have a right to screen possible tenants and refuse to rent their properties to persons who are likely to damage the properties, annoy or threaten other neighboring tenants, or fail to pay for rent or utilities.
5) Landlords have a right to discriminate about whom they accept as tenants based on evidence related to problems, but they must not discriminate based on things like race, family composition, and that sort of thing.
6) There is an inadequate supply of housing vouchers and public housing.
7) Many renters who receive housing vouchers become problem tenants, and there is a perception among landlords that those who have vouchers may be more likely to cause problems.  Many other persons who use housing vouchers are excellent tenants, and some landlords are willing to say that they have noticed no higher level of problems with housing voucher recipients compared to those who rent without public assistance from housing vouchers.
8) Some landlords like the housing voucher program, and are glad to work with HUD and receive the rents; other landlords dislike the housing voucher program, and are unwilling to accept tenants with housing vouchers.

Solutions that seem plausible:  

1) HUD ought to do a better job of screening who can receive housing vouchers, and ought to ensure that tenants are good tenants; this could change the reputation of the program, so that more landlords would be willing to participate.
2) HUD ought to do a better job of working with landlords to solve problems when a landlord claims that a housing voucher tenant has become a problem tenant. 
3) There ought to be more funding for housing choice vouchers so that fewer people are on the waiting list and more people are housed.
4) Persons who are accused of being problem tenants ought to be given a chance to defend themselves, but if it turns out that a landlord is correct, and a housing voucher recipient has a record of damaging landlord properties in an egregious way, such voucher recipients ought to lose their housing vouchers, and some alternative form of housing provision ought to be available so that these persons avoid homelessness, but also the landlords are protected so no one will rent to them again.

No comments: