Disclaimer: This post is only what I have heard or read and my personal opinion. Please research the subject for actually facts, data, etc.
Let’s talk about rental properties. According to the news, the city of Minneapolis just passed a law requiring all rental property owners to accept Section 8 housing vouchers. Property owners are against this and many tenants are also against this. Here is what I have heard/read so far:
Property owners are against this mandate because the Section 8 program itself is a nightmare. Many property owners were shown on the news stating that they do not get paid on time or paid in full by the Section 8 program, therefore, they do not want to be part of the program. Other reasons given by property owners are the paperwork required, being forced to sign a federal contract, the inspection process before new tenants move it, the programs maintenance requirements, and the financial burden placed on the property owners in the event of a bad tenant causing damage.
Current tenants and people in the proposed area do not want this mandate either. The claim is that Section 8 housing brings down property values for all surrounding properties, i.e. single family homes and businesses. People also have a fear of higher crime rates and higher drug activity. And of course money. Standard tenants will still have to pay the going rate of rent on said property (which varies between $1100-$2000 a month according to an online search of current available rentals), yet the people on Section 8 will not pay that same amount. Section 8 will pay part of the rent for those tenants on the program. Basically, the amount of rent the tenant pays is based on their income and Section 8 pays the rest of the amount due. This is paid with tax dollars.
Depending on the news source or the websites that I have looked at, some are calling it a mandate and some are calling it a law. A law is just that, a law; so you must follow it. By definition, a mandate is “an official order or commission to do something”.
My take on it is complicated, but I think that no property owner should be forced to take a tenant on Section 8. Yes, they should consider being part of the program, but not forced to be part of the program. When I was growing up, we were on Section 8 for about ten years. Dad was disabled and lived on a fixed income. This means we qualified for the program and had limited options of where to live. None of the apartments could remotely be considered ‘luxury’ units. They all had the same basic layout, 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, tiny little kitchen, small living room, ugly brown or tan carpet and dull white walls. They were functional and livable. Truthfully, they were not that bad. What I disliked about living in all of these places were the other people in the building or neighborhood.
At all of these complexes it was the same story over and over again. The police were around frequently, alcohol bottles were always in the yard or parking lot and there was drug activity. The complex we lived in while I was in middle school, we always knew when my next door neighbor’s boyfriend lost his job. We knew this because he always got drunk, got high and beat the crap out of her. The police were always called and he was always taken away. Within the next three days, the boy friend would be back home and we just waited until it happened again. We shared a common wall with this other unit and heard the screaming, the shouting and the pounding. Once, the boyfriend threw her into the common wall so hard, a picture frame fell off of our wall. My dad called the cops. I knew more about what happened in that unit than my dad did because I went to school with her son. She was also on Section 8 and her boyfriend was not on the lease. If he had been added to the lease, she would no longer qualify for the program because he would have been responsible for part of the rent and bills. The landlord knew the boyfriend lived there and did nothing about it.
All of the low income or Section 8 rental properties I have ever lived in have had high crime activity and tons of drug activity and I hated it. Once, I was a property manager for a low income apartment complex. And yes, we took Section 8 vouchers. The problem is, only one Section 8 applicant was approved in an 18 month time span. We had more than a dozen people apply and we turned them all away. The people who owned the rental property deny all applications with felonies less than 15 years old, deny anyone with drug charges-regardless of the age of the charges-deny anyone with an eviction or unlawful detainer on their rental history, and require tenants to make three times the rent. This income guideline is so common, I have never lived anywhere that does not have the same criteria. All of these Section 8 applicants were denied because of one or more of these reasons. The one tenant that was approved was a dream tenant! I loved having this person live in the building. Yes, they were poor, but they were quite, respectful, never had the police around, never had anyone else complaining about them and never violated their lease.
As the on-site property manager, I dealt with the police each time they were called to the building. The owner used to work with a non-profit group that helped recovering addicts or people with criminal records related to drugs. This organization would get them into an apartment, pay their damage deposit and their monthly rent for a predetermined amount of time. It was usually one year. During this time frame, the tenant would have to complete endless classes, remain sober and crime free and eventually find work. They had case workers through this organization to help them through each step. All of these tenants were horrible problem tenants! The police were there all the time for these same units. Always the same units and no others. Some of these tenants were arrested for drugs. It was an endless cycle of headaches and illegal activity. These are the same tenants that could potentially qualify for Section 8 due to a mental healthy disability.
Section 8, in theory, is a great program. However, in practice, it is a broken program. There are so many people that truly need Section 8 housing. Some people have medical problems that flat out prevent them from working enough hours to fully support themselves, or prevent them from working at all. And do not give me that worn out line, “that is what you have family for”. Not everyone has family they can rely on.
If a property owner is going to accept Section 8, then they need to be paid on time. Also, the property owner needs solid, legal recourse to collect on damages to the units. If I destroy an apartment that I rented, they would keep my damage deposit and take me to court for the remaining balance due on the repairs. Currently, property owners cannot take Section 8 to court to recoup these losses and most of these Section 8 tenants have nothing. Even if a property owner takes them to court, they have no real income to pay for the court awarded damages. These tenants typically already have low credit or bad credit, so having a judgement or lien put against them means little. And the tenants will still qualify for Section 8 and just live someplace else and the cycle repeats itself all over again.
In my opinion, if a person is going to be on Section 8, they must pass random drug tests the entire time they are on the program. There must be some form a legal recourse for property owners to collect money to reimburse them for the damages caused to their property, all tenants on Section 8 must still pass a criminal background check-I do not want a sex offender living next door to my children. Basically, Section 8 is a tricky subject. The program is needed, yet it needs to be fixed. The program needs to be more flexible with maintenance requirements and it needs to pay on time. Landlords in general need to be more realistic in their expectations of tenants. If my rent was $1500 a month and you required me to earn three times that amount of money and have a credit score of 750 or higher, I would not rent from you. I would just buy a house.
Tenants also need to be more realistic in their expectations. They are called low-income properties for a reason. They are not luxury units with hardwood floors and granite counter tops. My biggest pet peeve about renters, is when they think they can do whatever they want just because they pay rent. Newsflash! You do NOT own the place. You rent it. You must abide by the terms and conditions of the lease and follow the rules set forth by the company that does own the property. You cannot have random people living with you unless the property owner gives the go-ahead to do so. You cannot rip up your carpet just because you do not like it, unless you are given permission (yes, I had a tenant do this exact thing). And you need to remember that you are not the only tenant in the building, so please be respectful of you neighbors. I do not care if you pay rent or how much you pay, if your music wakes me up at 2 am, I am calling the cops. And please, stop being the small percentage of tenants that ruin these programs for everyone else!
I wonder if this debate will ever be resolved. I wonder if there will ever be a solid solution to the lack of affordable housing. If I ever owned rental property, I would accept Section 8 out of obligation. Section 8 kept a roof over my head as a child, therefore, I would feel obligated to be part of the program. But I wouldn’t like it.