Saturday, November 05, 2016

Section 8's 4-Month Rule A Major Fear For Voucher-Holding Renters Seeking Apartments; Housing Official: "[N]umber One Reason Why Vouchers Are Returned Is Because Landlord Is Not Willing To Accept Section 8"

In Southern California, The Orange County Register reports:
  • [T]he basic bargain of Section 8 is simple and, often, cruel. Once a person gets a voucher, they have it for life, as long as they follow the rules and meet income guidelines, meaning they stay poor enough to qualify.

    But there’s a catch – the four-month rule. After you first get a voucher, you have four months to find an apartment. And if you’ve had your voucher for years but you lose your dwelling, you still have only those same four months to find a new one.

    But take a day longer than four months, and your Section 8 voucher – the thing that often makes the difference between a bed under a roof and the back bench of an Isuzu – goes to the next person in line.

    [One] woman [living in her] vehicle held her voucher for 13 years before a dispute with her landlord put her on the streets. Her clock started ticking Aug. 7. If she doesn’t land a new lease by Dec. 10, she’ll lose her voucher for good.

    “I’m stressing out,” she said. “That’s why, every day, I call and look for a place. “But God will come through for me and help me. That’s what I believe.”

    FAILURE IS COMMON

    Orange County – like much of Southern California – is a tough rental market for anybody, with or without a Section 8 voucher.

    The apartment vacancy rate in the county is about 4 percent, and the typical monthly rent is more than $1,700, up about $165 from three years ago.

    Both factors help explain why so many locals who have Section 8 vouchers eventually lose them.

    The federal program, generated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is administered through a patchwork of agencies that serve communities around the country. In Orange County, there are four such agencies – the Orange County Housing Authority, which serves much of the county, as well as smaller housing authorities in Garden Grove, Santa Ana and Anaheim.

    Within the OC Housing Authority, the Section 8 failure rate – the percentage of people who lose their vouchers because they can’t land a place to live within the four-month window – is running at about 22 percent. It’s the same in Garden Grove. In Anaheim, the failure rate is about 33 percent. And in Santa Ana it’s 64 percent.

    Judson Brown, manager of Santa Ana’s Housing Division, wrote via email that the failure rate is going up, adding, “The number one reason why vouchers are returned is because the landlord is not willing to accept Section 8.”

    Other reasons, Brown said, include a lack of available units, high rent, pet ownership and shaky credit.

    The statistics of failure represent a human toll. For a family that loses a voucher after waiting years to get one, the result can be devastating.
    ***
    Whatever the reason, and whatever the results, Section 8 failure is common.

    The national failure rate is about 30 percent, and it takes a typical voucher holder about nine weeks to find a place, according to federal data.

    Many parts of Southern California fare worse than the national average.

    In Los Angeles County, Section 8 failure rates range from 90 percent in Culver City to 27 percent in the city of Los Angeles, according to federal data. About two-thirds of new voucher recipients fail to find rentals in Pasadena and Santa Monica, while clients with the L.A. County housing authority have a 39 failure percent rate.

    “It’s a national problem,” said Dave Levy of the Fair Housing Council of Orange County. “Every big metro area with high-priced housing is facing the same problem.”

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