Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How Much Choice Do Section 8 Tenants Really Have?

A story out of Pittsburgh says the answer is not much:

In 2010, Aishia Shavers applied for a City of Pittsburgh Housing Choice Voucher in the hope that it would get her a decent apartment to live in with her three children. [...]

In February, after four years on a waiting list, she finally got it. With 120 days to find an apartment, she sent out dozens of emails and made dozens of phone calls. She posted an ad on Craigslist announcing her "desperate need" for a housing choice rental in Pittsburgh. But she couldn't find anything. Most of the landlords said they don't accept the vouchers, widely known as Section 8 (after the section of the 1937 Housing Act that authorized them). Many of them never called her back. A few could only show her their apartments when she had to be at work. One landlord had a place open in Homewood. But he said he wouldn't recommend it for a family because it was in a high-crime area, Ms. Shavers said.

When her voucher expired on May 11, she hadn't even toured an apartment.

The problem isn't so much that there are no landlords that take Section 8, but that most of those units are in rough neighborhoods:
An analysis of data from the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh shows that housing choice units in Pittsburgh are disproportionately located in high-poverty, majority-minority neighborhoods like Knoxville, Homewood South and the Middle Hill. In each of those neighborhoods, more than 10 percent of housing was housing choice units in 2011. In Squirrel Hill North and Shadyside, on the other hand, less than a tenth of a percent of the housing was Section 8.


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