In Knox County, Tennessee, the Knoxville News Sentinel
- Between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. on the second Wednesday of every month, Debbie Taylor-Allen takes applications for Section 8 housing vouchers.
In times past, there have been more applicants than vouchers available. That’s not the case now, said Taylor-Allen, who is Section 8 Housing Director for the Knoxville Community Development Corporation. She has “plenty of vouchers” for people who apply.
The problem now, she said, is that they can’t find anywhere to use them.
In the past year, Knox County has lost more than 400 Section 8 apartments. Residents who get the vouchers have 60 days initially to use them and can apply for up to two 30-day extensions.
Nearly all are applying for the full 120 days, Taylor-Allen said – and even then, she estimates only 40 percent are finding a Section 8 unit to move into.
“It’s even harder if you’re single,” she said. “One-bedrooms and efficiencies (taking Section 8), you cannot find in Knoxville.”
Section 8 shortage
The Section 8 shortage Knox County is seeing is happening all over the country. A study last year out of New York University’s Furman Center indicated the U.S. is losing around 125,000 affordable housing units a year. Landlords either don’t renew their contracts, or the units are demolished and replaced with something other than Section 8 housing.
Knoxville has seen both happen. More than a third of the total renter-occupied units in Knoxville were built before 1980. And since March 2016, the city lost more than 400 units because a 15-year Section 8 contract many landlords had is expiring, and they’re choosing not to renew, Taylor-Allen said. The old contract came with a substantial tax credit as incentive; new tax credits aren’t as lucrative, she said.
“Once those contracts have expired, those owners are not required to rent to low-income families anymore,” she said. Those contracts affected many complexes that had a mix of Section 8 and open-market housing.