Article borrowed from the Los Angeles Times. To read the complete article, click here.
By ANDREW KHOURI of the Los Angeles Times
When Kimberly Dominique received her Section 8 voucher in September, she thought it was the ticket to move out of the Ford Focus she and her 29-year-old son called home.
But Dominique, a 66-year-old stroke survivor, spent months contacting one apartment complex after another in Oceanside, only to have landlords reject the voucher, which can provide hundreds of dollars toward a rent payment.
One day, Dominique estimated, she called more than 70 landlords. Those who answered or bothered to call back all had the same answer: No.
“It’s taken its toll,” Dominique said late last year, noting that she’d lost weight and grown increasingly depressed as her voucher neared expiration.
“Sometimes, I feel like I’m losing hope,” said Dominique’s son, Dion.
In California, more than half of tenants struggle with unaffordable rent. Tens of thousands bed down on the streets at night. Vouchers are one of the federal government’s most powerful weapons to fight both problems, but low-income households can wait more than 10 years just to get one — and, increasingly, they can’t find a landlord willing to take it.
Experts say landlords have a variety of reasons for resisting, including concerns over red tape. But the largest one is simple economics: Property owners increasingly can charge more than the government is willing to pay.
Government data used to calculate subsidy caps are out of date and unlikely to reflect sharp upswings in markets like Southern California, experts say, and too little housing is built in coastal California relative to job and population growth, so landlords can command eye-popping figures.
Zillow data show median rent for a two-bedroom unit in L.A. County has soared 56% since 2012, to $2,700 in February. The HUD-approved “fair market rent,” meanwhile, rose 23.8%, to $1,791.
“The payment standard is always trailing the actual market,” said Roberto Chavez, housing supervisor for the city of Redondo Beach. “If [I’m a landlord] … and putting a sign out for $5,000 and I get it, that’s the new market.”
According to the latest available data, just under half the people who received a voucher in the city of Los Angeles had it expire in 2017 before they found a place, up from 18% in 2011.
Expirations are also on the rise in unincorporated areas and cities that don’t have their own authority, such as Whittier, Huntington Park and Lancaster, according to the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles.
“Right off the bat, landlords won’t work with us,” said Carlos Van Natter, the Section 8 director for the Housing Authority of the City of L.A. “Over time, the geographic areas we can work in the city has shrunk to the poorest neighborhoods.”
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