I have a friend who lives next door to an apartment complex that houses predominately Section 8 tenants. Once, she came home to someone’s worldly possessions on the lawn and a sheriff standing by for an eviction. In the middle of the night, occasionally, she’ll look out her window and see the revolving lights of LMPD cars gathered in the complex’s courtyard. She’s lived in the neighborhood for over 5 years and, generally, hasn’t had many problems.
“I didn’t even know it was Section 8 until someone told me,” she said. “Usually the only trouble we see is teenagers being stupid.”
My friend is ambivalent towards the Housing Choice Voucher Program, also know as Section 8. However, there are a lot of residents and landlords out there who aren’t quite as sure that Section 8 is a good idea for anyone. In case you don’t know, this is a government program that assists “very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe…housing in the private market” (HUD.gov). Housing agencies pay the majority of the rent directly to the landlord and the tenant is responsible for making up the difference.
Many landlords don’t like the program. One reason is that there is an inspection done by the prospective tenant’s caseworker. Everything must be in tip-top functioning order before the tenant can move in. However, when the tenant’s lease is up, there is no exit inspection done by the agency (biggerpockets.com). Many landlords complain that the subsidized tenants don’t take care of the property and cost them thousands of dollars in damages. Landlords also say that some Section 8 tenants move friends and family members into properties, which is a lease violation.
Residents around Section 8 housing insist that crime follows subsidized tenants. They cite a lack of parental control, unmowed lawns, trash and violence as reasons for their reluctance to accept these new neighbors. In some cases, they feel that there is a lack of fair play: why should I pay $1,500 a month when these guys can live in the same place practically for free? I understand why this could annoy some residents, but there’s a greater purpose behind Section 8 that should perhaps be considered:
Section 8 helps families. Section 8 gives people with lower incomes the chance to leave blighted neighborhoods. It gives families the opportunity to enroll their children in better schools with more resources. Basically, it’s a program that is attempting to uplift people, not destroy neighborhoods. Perhaps if the housing authority insisted on exit inspections (with compensation for damages), landlords wouldn’t be so wary of renting to voucher recipients. Perhaps if we worked harder to create quality after school programs and community centers, the kids wouldn’t be acting up out of boredom.
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Written by Sue H.