The pandemic has left many people in a place they never thought they’d be – “accepting government assistance”.
We all know someone who has suffered an unexpected illness, job loss, or death in the family that’s left them struggling to pay their bills. For many, this was a realization that forces beyond our control can turn our housing security upside down, no matter how responsible we were.
There is a critical lifeline to keep our friends, neighbors, and sometimes ourselves from becoming houseless: It’s called Section 8.
Unfortunately, if you’ve looked for a home to rent lately, you will notice that some of them advertise ”No Section 8” or “No HUD”.
According to affordablehousingonline.com/
“The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program is a federal rental assistance program that helps low-income renters pay a portion of their income for rent. Program participants choose their own unit to use the voucher, and pay 30% to 40% of the household’s adjusted monthly income toward rent. The rest is paid directly to the landlord by the Public Housing Agency that manages the household’s voucher.”
There’s often a waiting list but those in need should contact their local County Housing Agency to determine if assistance is available.
But, making it to the top of the waiting list is only half the battle, because voucher holders are often told that they are not welcome to apply for homes advertised for rent. The reason? Because the landlord has chosen not to even consider renting to a person who utilizes a voucher.
For the lucky ones, this discrimination means spending more time doubled up with friends, or maybe even in a homeless shelter. For others, it means they are out in the cold, waiting for some landlord to give them a chance.
Imagine if landlords refused to accept renters whose primary income was social security. Imagine if grocery stores refused to accept EBT.
It’s flat-out wrong and discrimination against renters based on their voucher status should be prohibited by law.
In fact, in at least thirteen states including California and the District of Columbia, it is against the law. These states and numerous municipalities have passed laws prohibiting housing discrimination based on the source of income.
It’s time for Hawai’i to join them.
Yes, a landlord should be able to select renters who are able to pay the rent, have a history of paying it on time, and who will take care of the property. This determination should be based however on the renter’s past performance, and other relevant factors, not simply because they are on public assistance.
The state legislature has repeatedly turned its back on legislation to protect houseless and low to middle-income working families. However, there is a simple and free way for our legislators to get serious about addressing the housing crisis: by passing a bill that fully outlaws housing voucher discrimination.
A strong no-nonsense measure is needed and legislators must reject attempts to prohibit discrimination “in advertisement only” but in reality allowing the practice to continue without penalty.
During the opening day ceremonies that take place today January 19th, there will be talk about increasing Hawaii’s minimum wage, paid family leave, and affordable housing. We must also make sure that housing cannot be denied to our neighbors who need vouchers as we work toward our goal of “one job should be enough”.
The Chair of the Housing Committee in the House is Representative Nadine Nakamura repnakamura@Capitol.hawaii.gov and in the Senate, it’s Senator Stanley Chang senchang@Capitol.hawaii.gov
Please take a moment to email and ask them to end housing “housing voucher discrimination” in Hawai’i.
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