Another proposed solution by folks who prefer to not build housing is to point to housing assistance programs like Section 8 and say that Section 8 is a superior way to provide affordable housing as opposed to building supply and allow an increase in supply to drive down demand and, therefore, prices.
The only problem is that a shortage in housing means that landlords can be a lot more picky about who they rent to and there is no incentive to rent to a Section 8 tenant. Early in June the East Bay Times wrote about the squeeze on Section 8 holders, highlights:
There is a critical housing shortage for people of all income levels, and rents are soaring. In this super hot market, low-income people trying to use Section 8 are finding it almost impossible to find landlords willing to rent to them.
Landlords have complained about tenants who refused to pay rent and damaged property. They say that once a Section 8 renter moves in, it’s very hard to get them out regardless of how problematic the person is.
It was a different story when vacancy rates were higher. Landlords had more of a financial incentive to rent to what they considered higher-risk tenants for a guaranteed monthly check from the federal government.
As the story reports a lot of jurisdictions are moving toward project based Section 8 which means that the affordability stays with the unit as opposed to being portable like the housing choice voucher. But even if you are lucky to have this golden ticket, it won’t do you any good if you can’t get into the Wonka factory:
Many Section 8 waiting lists are years long. A renter with a voucher only has a few months to find a place. If he doesn’t make the deadline, he loses his voucher and has to reapply. Homeless people with Section 8 vouchers are flooding the Berkeley Drop-in Center seeking aid. Some are living in their cars, in shelters and tents, according to Executive Director Katrina Killian.
“There are too few vouchers and the ones out there, no one will take,” she said.
The affordability problem of the Bay Area will not be solved with just throwing every other solution out there other than adding supply.