Make Section 8 and Optional Government program

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Our friends at the Utah Apartment Association has notified us of a need to alert our Senators of the desire to make Section 8 an Optional Government Program. Details are below:

The rental housing industry had a big week at the legislature and we need your help to make sure our gains are not released.

What we need from you:

Housing Authorities and their advocates are engaged in a grass roots efforts to contact Senators to urge them to vote against a bill that is GREAT for our industry and affordable housing. We need your help contacting your Senator as a constituent and letting them know how good this bill will be for affordable housing. SB 175 Fair Housing Option Amendments, Margaret Dayton (R), Orem, has passed out of Senate committee and will go to the floor of the Senate this week for a vote. The housing authorities and advocates will be sending emails this week to Senators claiming the sky will fall if this bill is passed. Nothing could be further from the truth and emails from actual constituents of each Senator will counter this hysteria. We need your help to let your Senator know what this bill does and why they should support it.

What this bill does:

It allows Utah landlords to opt out of working with housing authorities, by allowing us to refuse to work with the Section 8 voucher program without being discriminatory. Here is the actual language of the bill:

(a) Government assistance payments paid to a landlord under the housing choice voucher program administered by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development are not part of a tenant's income for the purposes of this chapter [i.e. for Fair Housing]

(b) A landlord's refusal to participate in the housing choice voucher program does not constitute a discriminatory housing practice under this chapter.

In other words currently Section 8 is a protected class and refusing to work with Section 8 could get a landlord a $10,000 fine. This bill will allow landlords to opt out and not be liable for discrimination.

What the bill does not do:

Housing Authorities and advocates say this bill will hurt affordable housing and low income tenants. We believe that is not true. Section 8, like Medicare, was designed as an optional government program. Doctors can opt out of Medicare if they don't want to deal with the restrictions or bureaucracy of the program, and landlords should be able to opt out of Section 8. 41 states allow landlords to opt out of Section 8 and the program works just fine there. Texas and Indiana passed similar bills last year to what is proposed in Utah, and nothing bad happened to low income tenants. This is an issue of business freedom.

There are 11,000 section 8 vouchers in Utah, out of almost 300,000 rental units. That's only 4%. Housing authorities Section 8 tenants, Property Managers, Landlords and attorneys testified last week at a hearing that if this bill passed only about 10-20% of landlords would actually stop taking Section 8 vouchers. But even if 50% of the 300,000 rental units became unavailable to Section 8 participants, there would still be almost 15 times as many units available as are needed. In addition, there are almost 20,000 government subsidized affordable housing units under various programs that would love to take section 8 tenants - and that's even before the private market.

What we need from you:

1 - Go to this website http://le.utah.gov/GIS/findDistrict.jsp to find your State Senator (just put in your street address and Zip Code, i.e. "448 East Winchester 84107"). Make sure to only find your Senator (the House hasn't taken up the matter yet). Then using the contact info it pulls up, send a short email with the subject line: "Constituent who supports SB 175" that says something, in your own words, like:

Dear Senator,

*I am a constituent and voter in your district who is in the rental housing business

*I support and ask you to vote in favor of SB 175 Fair Housing Option Amendments

*When mandatory section 8 was passed in 1989 the government guaranteed the condition of the rental after the tenant moved - something they no longer do

*We love low income tenants and this bill is not focused on them, it is focused on the government bureaucracies that run the section 8 program

*Unfortunately, because landlords have to accept section 8, many housing authorities who administer the program treat landlords poorly and don't follow their own policies

*This bill would restore market forces to housing authorities, who would have to treat landlords better or lose them as customers

*41 other states have this same law and two states last year, Texas and Indiana, passed similar laws and the section 8 program actually works better in states where there is choice

Thanks for your support.

Feel free to share any bad experiences you have had with housing authorities or money you have lost by being forced to take Section 8 (PLEASE don't bash the tenants. We are only focusing on how the Program itself and the Housing Authorities have caused problems).

By Rebecca Dearing on Feb 29, 2016



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