Sunday, July 03, 2016

It Can Take Years To Score HUD Housing Subsidy In Steel City, But Only Four Months To Lose It As Area Landlords Give Thumbs-Down To Section 8 Renters

In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:
  • It can take years to get a Section 8 voucher in Pittsburgh. But it takes just four months to lose it.

    Pittsburgh’s voucher waiting list has about 5,000 families on it, but once a family gets one, the clock starts ticking. The recipient must find a qualified residence within 120 days and, because of a shortage of units and willing landlords, that’s often very difficult.

    The Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly referred to as Section 8, is the largest federal program for assisting low-income people to find affordable housing in the private rental market. A family that receives a voucher must find a rental unit that meets a minimum standard and can pass a quality inspection. A subsidy is then paid by the housing authority administering the program directly to the landlord; the family pays the difference between the actual rent and the subsidy.
    Not enough landlords

    “It is difficult to find a landlord willing to take a voucher in the city of Pittsburgh,” said Richard Morris, housing director for the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, who hears from those who have a hard time using their voucher.

    Dan Vitek, senior housing attorney at Neighborhood Legal Services Association,(1) represents individuals who are losing their vouchers because they were not able to find a landlord who would accept them within 120 days — the time limit a family has to secure housing before they lose the voucher.

    “I would say the biggest reason [people aren’t able to use them] is that there isn’t enough housing stock where they are willing to accept a voucher. In my experience over the last seven years, each year has been harder and harder for tenants to find places within the city,” Mr. Vitek said.

    Earl Mosley, Jr. had to leave his subsidized home in Garfield when his landlord sold the building. Since April, he has been looking for an apartment that will take his Section 8 voucher. For a time, he and his adult son were living in Mr. Mosley’s car.

    “I have been diligently looking, every day,” Mr. Mosley said in May.

    “It’s just been a nightmare,” he said.

    Mr. Mosley could not be reached by a reporter last week.

    An ‘underutilized resource’

    Despite the lengthy waiting list and need for vouchers, a 2015 study noted that in the city of Pittsburgh, Section 8 vouchers are an “underutilized resource.”

    In 2013, the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh received $41.9 million in voucher funding from the federal government but spent only $29.8 million of that on voucher payments, serving about 5,000 families, the study noted. The full use of that funding could have served an additional 1,500 to 2,000 households.
    The limits on how much HUD will allow the housing authority to pay for what it considers a regional fair market rent, finding units that will pass inspection in an older city with aging housing stock, and a lack of willing landlords are all factors in the agency having a low voucher success rate, [Pittsburgh Housing Authority chief operations officer David] Weber said.
    Ebony Hobdy, who was unable to find housing within the 120-day window and is fighting the loss of her voucher, noted, “A lot of people have the same problem. There’s still people like me out there who are still looking.”
For more, see For those with Section 8 vouchers, finding suitable housing difficult (Thousands on waiting list, but not enough available units).
(1) Neighborhood Legal Services Association is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing civil legal assistance to poor and vulnerable Pennsylvania residents of Allegheny, Beaver, Butler and Lawrence Counties.

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