Blogging Bayport Alameda

August 2, 2016

Section 8 is not enough

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

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.




  1. I personally know one person who is looking for section 8 housing and is having a very hard time . This young woman has four children by two men and kick both men out of her life. She has never worked in the 10 years I have known her. She is a high school dropout. Has never taken advantage of any job training that was offered to her. Thanks to a caring relative, she has a place to stay, though she keeps the place in shambles. Now that that her children are all in school, she got a dog which will be her “service” dog.

    Would you want this women as your tenant?

    Comment by Hugo — August 2, 2016 @ 7:47 am

  2. I agree that increasing housing supply is the most desirable solution to providing affordable housing. As the current solution, homelessness, expands up the income scale, social conflict will increase. The only way to maintain a civil society that does not rely on population control is to increase the housing supply. In an increasingly global world, more desperate populist movements in Europe (BREXIT) and the U.S. (Donald Trump) and authoritarian governments (Russia and Putin, Turkey and Edrdogan) are in our future if we as a society don’t provide housing for all no matter where they were born.

    Comment by William Smith — August 2, 2016 @ 8:20 am

  3. Wow, Bill. Sure wish you would have told us sooner that all we had to do to avoid the Genghis Khan land confiscation was to provide housing for the homeless Mongols. Probably we could have built a few cubbyholes for homeless farmers in Pennsylvania and avoided the Whiskey Rebellion too. And those damned southern rebels were just in need of a few slave shanties and, had the north build them, they wouldn’t have caused such a ruckus back in Lincoln’s day.

    Comment by jack — August 2, 2016 @ 9:48 am

  4. Hey, didn’t know that so few (judging from the comments so far) know what Section 8 is. I used to rent out around ten or so apartments (chopped up Victorian houses) back in the 70s to 90s and some were section 8 rentals. Had no problems with the program. Kinda pissed me off, though, when the tenants at 1549 Bay St. who were on section 8, used to take 2 week vacations in Hawaii on the Gov’s dime.

    Comment by Jack — August 2, 2016 @ 7:17 pm

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