Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cops Cite Fear Of Losing Section 8 Housing Voucher As Effective Crime-Fighting Tool To Compel Rent-Subsidized Tenants To Boot Felonious Family Members; Tenant Advocate Gives Approach A Thumbs-Down

In Meriden, Connecticut, the Journal Record reports:
  • U.S. Housing and Urban Development and Housing Authority rules governing the use of Section 8 vouchers by tenants and their families can be a powerful tool in making neighborhoods safer, police said [recently].
    Enforcing laws that forbid violent criminal offenders in federally subsidized housing can force gang members and convicted felons out of certain neighborhoods. Sometimes the reality of losing housing is enough to force the Section 8 voucher-holding tenant to remove a convicted roommate, friend, family member or partner. In other cases, convicted felons will leave on their own, rather than see their families or children lose stable housing.

    “If they are violating their lease, Section 8 can move to a termination hearing,” Police Chief Jeffry Cossette told members of the public at a forum on public safety []. “They (felons) don’t care if they go to jail; they care if the Section 8 is lost to the family.”
    Section 8 fraud investigations are common to prevent felons from living in Section 8 homes and to make sure Section 8 tenants aren’t subleasing part of their home. Unreported roommates may have criminal backgrounds they want to hide. And if tenants are getting government assistance on rent, they aren’t allowed to get extra rent or utility help from a roommate.
    The MHA combs police arrest reports regularly and checks for names and addresses of tenants at housing authority properties and at Section 8 properties. If a tenant’s name is found on the police blotter, local police are called to testify about the event or produce an incident report. The authority also checks the addresses used by a suspect to see if people are living illegally in a unit. The authority may wait for the case to go through the courts or a guilty plea before taking action. Tenants have a right to appeal a termination and the MHA recognizes that police are wrong sometimes.
    Emely Morales Varona, a tenant representative on the Meriden Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, cautioned the police, the housing authority, and the city against using Section 8 termination as a threat against families in need.

    “I just don’t want it to become a free-for-all in micromanaging peoples lives, their privacy, ability to try to change family dynamics,” Varona said. [...] “Sometimes many are in abusive relationships at times and have no way to get out of them,” Morales Varona said. “Dealing with gang lifestyle endangers not only mothers, but children as well. Taking or threating to taking a voucher away sometimes just endangers a woman's life. The MHA and police department shouldn’t be pushing parents that are trying to change into not being part of their childrens lives.”
    Morales Varona wants to know what the police department is doing to assist a struggling parent who is trying to pull herself from a gang-associated relationship.

    “It is very difficult,” she said. “Most women do not make it out alive.”

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