Soaring Rents Squeeze Section 8 Tenants
I’ve been on Section 8 since 2007, and when I was homeless with my two younger sons, we were living with different relatives, we were living on the couches, we were living in our car and when Section 8 said ok, you can come get your voucher I was like okay it’s-it’s like a god-sent within a week I was able to secure the job and then after that I was able to secure a residence also. Even though I have a job it’s still hard for me to pay up the full market rent by myself. The rental housing authority provides affordable housing for folks that need it. We have public housing units available as well as the Housing Choice vouchers otherwise known as the Section 8 program. A Housing Choice voucher is a housing voucher for someone who’s low income and what it does, based on their income, it pays a portion of their rent. So we have people who are paying zero for rent and we have some people almost paying the full rent. Right now we have 1,800-1,750 people on the waitlist. We’re only pulling off about 20 per year, the waitlist may outlive some folks. It was a note on my door and I read it and I kinda got scared, very terrified. I was given 60 days to vacate. I did call the office and I asked him, “What was this about?” “there’s something I done or whatever?”, and they were like, “no, it’s just cause you’re on Section 8”, and there was no other explanations. I’ve been here in this community and I love being in this community and to sit there and have that note placed on my door. It was just devastating, I had to discuss this with my son and let him know that we would have to move again and he would have to switch schools and that was hard on him. I was up day and night, trying- I couldn’t get sleep. It almost became an addiction trying to find something available. Nothing was coming in Renton, nothing. My daughter just began to come home crying. I started thinking about homelessness. What happened in Renton with these two properties, is that we have a new ownership involved. The landlord’s were opting out of accepting Housing Choice vouchers. Folks who…receive housing assistance vouchers, in this case of Section 8 voucher. They’re competing more and more with folks who are able to pay market rates, because of all the people that are moving here for high-paying jobs. The action taken by the property management company involved was within the law, it was perfectly legal. We learn about the stories of all those folks and kind of the challenges that they had had and it also became really clear to us that a lot of those tenants were really ready to fight back. You know, I wanted to know who else was affected by this and who it would happen to and that’s how we begin to learn it, you know. We weren’t alone. When we started investigating, we came into it with understanding that Section 8 is a voluntary program, meaning landlords could – all things being equal – refuse to rent to people who’s Section 8. However, federal housing law prohibits landlords from taking actions or having policies that have, what we call a discriminatory effect, meaning a landlord could have policy that says, “we don’t take Section 8”, but if the people that are harmed by that are disproportionately minorities, women, people with disabilities, that can still be illegal. The vast majority of renters affected by this were African-American women with children, up to ninety-percent in some of the buildings, and given the population of the city of Renton and King county, that was a pretty clear discriminatory effect that this policy was disproportionately harming black women with children. I’m not sure if this was as much a race issue as it was a business decision issue. It’s a hot rental market and they want to raise rents as fast and quickly as they can, while the markets hot. They don’t understand how, you know, one minute you-you have a home and in the next minute they’re telling you have to leave, not because you don’t have enough money, not because you’re being a nuisance, not because you’re tearing up the property, it’s because you have Section 8 and that’s wrong. Next is audience comments, we have a lot-a number of people signed up to address the council, particularly on the Section 8 topic. Someone mentioned something about discrimination and you gotta prove this, you can’t prove something that you’ve experienced everyday. Everyday living. Everyday when you get discriminated against. We are asking you to stand with some of your most vulnerable community members and to pass protections for them today. This action would have effects that would spread throughout the entire region. I am a single mom. Two… Fight for us. Section 8 has been a very good thing for me. This program is needed for a lot of people. I feel it’s discriminatory, I feel that they’re discriminating against people that have low income or get help from Section 8. This ordinance needs to be passed and it needs to be passed now. Well, even though I, uh, I have the option to stay. I’m choosing to leave. I lost part of my dignity and though it was given back. We’re single mothers and we’re trying out the best we can to raise our children. InClose on KCTS 9 is made possible in part by BECU.