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The San Diego, California, City Council is considering a law that would ban landlords from rejecting tenants because they use federal Section 8 vouchers to pay their rent. Supporters say that more than 85 percent of San Diego residents who receive those vouchers are non-whites and the measure will reduce housing segregation.

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  1. Which brings up the question; are the housing vouchers easily and quickly redeemed for cash? I’m sure they are in theory, but how’s the practice? Does anyone know?

    1. That’s not how it works. The section 8 “voucher” is really just a statement of participation in the program. The government sends a check directly to the landlord every month covering all or part of the rent.

      1. There is a nice little twist to this. Most states determine fair market rent based on the most expensive housing district. In PA that’s the Philly area. So recipients are eligible for around $2k monthly rent. In Pittsburgh average rent is less than 1/2 that. So landlords and renters often make a side deal where the landlord tells the state the rent is $2k a month when in truth it is $1K. He then splits the extra income with the tenant to buy they’re silence.

        It’s coo though. It ain’t real money it’s just magical tax money.

        1. I can think of many reasons why I, as a landlord, would not participate in that, the main one being that the penalties for defrauding the federal government are not worth the risk. I don’t have any trouble finding tenants at the rent I want to charge.

          A section 8 tenant is a pretty poor partner in crime, too. They typically don’t have track records of making good decisions.

          1. I think reliance on others is a good part of why I avoid shady deals and shady people. I just don’t trust others to understand the fundamental rule of the Prisoner’s Dilemma — keep yer mouth shut! Throw in low-lifes who think stealing a few hundred a month in government money is a good earning, and the odds go down even worse.

            1. Brings to mind the cautionary saying about laying with dogs and waking with fleas.

              I’m not a tenant but I have a relative who is. The trend is so commonplace that more often than not when she is meeting with prospective tenants they ask, w/o any compunction, “You gonna give me my money?” Meaning of course they expect some kind of kickback.

              1. “You gonna give me my money?”

                God, I’d be so tempted to be a smart-ass.

                “I don’t think that you understand how this whole ‘tenant / landlord’ relationship works.”

  2. Is it the tenants or the vouchers they’re rejecting? Would a landlord rent to that same person if he or she was paying not with public funds?

    1. It’s the tenants. The section 8 money is a real temptation, because it is guaranteed money, but the tenants tend to be the worst of the worst. We have had a number of section 8 tenants and we’re just sick of it. The level of property damage just isn’t worth it. Last couple section 8 candidates that applied, we demanded a $3,000 damage deposit (amount of damage the last section 8 tenants did), which of course they can’t afford.

      1. Don’t the vouchers also come with a bunch of strings attached? Don’t you have to jump through a bunch of hoops like having an inspector come through from time to time and they make you “repair” things to the most expensive standard and remodel if something doesn’t meet some specific measurement requirement and crap like that?

        1. I’m pretty sure that’s just part of renting. Gotta keep everything up to code.

          1. Nope. There are special section 8 inspections that are above and beyond normal code requirements. If you get a pain-in-the-ass inspector they can reject you for some pretty ludicrous things. We failed an inspection because the inspector found a couple granules of sugar in a crack in a kitchen cabinet and because one of the stove burners was too slow to light (which my wife fixed on the spot, but which the inspector would not accept without a complete reinspection at a later time).

            We just don’t need the hassle for what is likely to be a terrible tenant anyway.

            1. My folks have an apartment building and have had to deal with it all. The city where they’re at is a petty tyrant’s paradise. They have a special tax that exists just to pay for inspectors who go around making landlords spend thousands of dollars a year to keep units up to code. It’s not worth it.

              1. The city where they’re at is a petty tyrant’s paradise. They have a special tax that exists just to pay for inspectors who go around making landlords spend thousands of dollars a year to keep units up to code. It’s not worth it.

                I’m guessing those same petty tyrants are probably shocked and appalled that there’s not enough “affordable housing” to go around.

            2. That’s darkly amusing considering the public housing scandal here in NYC – if the city runs the housing, they just let it fall apart while the officials lie about having made lead paint inspections.

        2. Yep. Very dependant on the individual inspector, though, and some of them revel in throwing their weight around. It’s always the tenant that suffers in that case, though. All they can do is shut off the money and make the tenant let. I can always find a new tenant in that case.

          1. ^leave, not let.

      2. Who could have guessed that people with no skin in the game might not care about damaging property. It’s almost like people naturally act selfishly.

      3. I have a good fried with 50-60 rental units who has had the same experience. Nice to get the guaranteed check on the first of the month, but the tenants he has had do so much damage it’s not worth it. Like kitchen counters totally destroyed, and carpets literally saturated with grease, such that your shoes make a sucking sound when you walk across it. That and all the strings attached to participating in that program.

        1. I don’t understand that at all. I mean, why would someone want to live in a place that had been fucked up like that?

          1. The things I have seen would boggle your mind. I never thought the phrase “poop lasagna” would be part of my vocabulary. Tenant had a dog. Dog not house-trained. They put down cardboard. When there was too much poop, they’d put down another layer of cardboard. Use your imagination for what it was like to excavate that

  3. Seems like proving such discrimination will require massive data collection and mystic mumbo-jumbo hand-waving analysis, or a lot of sting operations.

    Aiming to prevent discrimination against the poor and minorities

    Uhh, I think pricing alone already discriminates against the poor. Isn’t Section 8 only for the poor, or are they saying that some non-poor minorities get Section 8, which is probably fraud? Or are they saying that landlords looking for tenants have the luxury of choosing tenants for reasons other than ability to pay? Is there rent control, keeping prices artificially low? Zooooning perhaps prevents new housing construction?

    They also say the law would force landlords to deal with an onerous federal bureaucracy that brings with it mountains of paperwork, inspections and difficulty securing rent increases.

    Looks like a form of rent control in the shape of a federal bureaucracy; tenants have to be approved for a specific rent level I bet, and getting re-approval for rent increases is a slow laborious process that landlords hate. I’m just guessing here, never dealt with Section 8, but I can easily imagine landlords not wanting that hassle, and probably also not wanting to evice perfectly good tenants just because Uncle Sugar takes six months to process some paperwork.

    1. Yes, I think I was right. Here’s one money quote, from a landlord’s association:

      Molly Kirkland, a spokeswoman for the San Diego County Apartment Association, explained the reasons for such blanket rejections of voucher holders.

      “This is not about the voucher and this is not about the persons who hold them,” Kirkland told the committee. “Our concerns are entirely about the program and procedures.”

      She said landlords with small numbers of units don’t have the staff to deal with the required paperwork, and she said inspections required for all section 8 rentals often take weeks to schedule.

      And here’s a quote from a nanny:

      Rick Gentry, chief executive of the San Diego Housing Commission, said the process is simpler than critics say. On inspections, he said it’s appropriate to require them when taxpayer funds are helping subsidize a rental.

      I doubt his first statement. I expect landlords wouldn’t hate it so much if it were that simple, and he’s a bureaucrat with a weird idea of what “simple” means. As to what he think is “appropriate”, he’s a bureacrat, and that means his opinion is worthless on the matter.

      1. Here’s the typical political solution to any problem of bureaucratic inertia: do something unrelated!

        In conjunction with the new law, Gomez proposes creating a $1 million fund that would be set aside to pay landlords if tenants using vouchers damage property or fail to pay their rent.

        Gentry said the Housing Commission had success with a similar fund created to encourage landlords during a recent three-year effort to house 1,000 homeless veterans.

        But someone else thinks like I first wondered:

        He also raised questions about how the new law would be enforced.

        It did mention that a lot of housing ads have blanket “No Section 8” bans, and I’d guess all they will do is eliminate the ads, which won’t stop the discrimination, so the next step will be more bureaucracy, more sting operations, more restrictions, and an even tighter housing supply. Good move, city!

      2. Kirkland is talking politically correct BS. The landlords hate section 8 tenants because they trash the property, they buy and sell drugs and engage in other criminal activity and are just generally horrible tenants.

      3. Kirkland is talking politically correct BS. The landlords hate section 8 tenants because they trash the property, they buy and sell drugs and engage in other criminal activity and are just generally horrible tenants.

    2. No, this isn’t how it works at all. The initial inspections take a bit of time, but once a tenant is in, the checks are reliable. The section 8 authority also does not set the rent. They set what they are willing to pay. If you have a $2000/month rental, a section 8 candidate cannot come up and demand that you rent it for $1500. The candidate has to look for properties in her price range.

      The reason people reject section 8 tenants is that the tenants are *awful*. They are the worst of the worst. Destructive and irresponsible.

      1. Thanks. So both sides are lying.

        1. Yes… but only one of those sides will show up with guns if you don’t play the game their way. It’s in the interests of the people on the other side to say whatever it takes to get them to go away.

          So, while true, I heap significantly less opprobrium upon one side.

          1. Yes, that goes without saying.

      2. “The initial inspections take a bit of time” might be the winner for understatement of the day. Also note that the inspections don’t stop after “initial”. In most jurisdictions, the bureaucrats reserve the right to reinspect at will – and exercise that right arbitrarily and often.

    3. Also, landlords don’t have to get approval to raise the rent. The tenant has to cover the difference or move out.

      1. No restrictions? What I wonder is, are there ramifications for kicking someone out because the tenant has applied for a Section 8 increase but the bureaucracy is so slow that it could take six months? Is this the kind of situation that leads to pickets and headlines and Film at 11?

        1. Lease agreements are for a particular term, typically one year. A landlord is under no obligations (in my city) regarding price or continued occupancy past the contract term. But I don’t think I would be in the business in a rent-controlled city. That would be a nightmare.

          1. In your city, maybe. But eviction in a California city? How do you think lawyers get rich?

            1. Like I said, if I was in a city with less favorable laws, I wouldn’t be in the business

    4. Or are they saying that landlords looking for tenants have the luxury of choosing tenants for reasons other than ability to pay?

      We often do. We look for tenants who ate going to be good neighbors and good stewards of the property. Of course that does quite often go hand-in-hand with ability to pay for non section 8 tenants. Section 8 tenants have no ability to pay on their own and thus often have many other bad traits.

      1. I don’t own rental property myself, but I know people who do, and I know people who manage rental property. Tenant character is the most important thing they care, even more important than basic credit checks, or so I gather. But they sort of go hand in hand. They have had excellent poor tenants who are late half the time,but take care of the property and always let them know when they will be late. Others pay on time and never complain, but the place is a pisty when they leave.

        1. Right.

        2. I’ve only ever met one of my landlords. And that was when they were the parents of the roommate that came with the place, and we got accepted 200% on his recommendation.

          Every other place I’ve rented, we never met the person who made the decision on who to rent to. The agency we worked with (in multiple cities) just passed on all the applications with the credit check and paystubs to the actual landlord.

          So while I’m sure it works that way in some places, I’m sleeping that “character” is a consideration in many cases. The agency just doesn’t spend enough time with potential tenants to get that kind of information.

    5. Or are they saying that landlords looking for tenants have the luxury of choosing tenants for reasons other than ability to pay?

      We often do. We look for tenants who ate going to be good neighbors and good stewards of the property. Of course that does quite often go hand-in-hand with ability to pay for non section 8 tenants. Section 8 tenants have no ability to pay on their own and thus often have many other bad traits.

    6. Isn’t Section 8 only for the poor, or are they saying that some non-poor minorities get Section 8, which is probably fraud?

      They’re means-tested. But there are a couple calling things:

      My city has one of the highest Somali refugee populations in the nation. The Somalis are automatically eligible for all kinds of benefits. They’re a drag on the welfare system the second they enter the country.

      It’s common for couples to avoid marriage, because an unemployed single mother is eligible for all sorts of benefits. Meanwhile her boyfriend works a job, so they get the best of both worlds. Boyfriend maintains an official residence elsewhere, just “visits” a whole lot.

      1. ^galling, not calling. Shouldn’t respond to these threads on my phone.

      2. Based on my one and only experience with section 8, the means testing is a joke.

        I employed a section 8 recipient as a nanny and paid her enough that with her other nanny jobs she wouldn’t qualify, and yet she always did. It was a long time ago, but I remember the talks with the means tester, and in every case I was led to give answers that would allow my nanny to stay on the program.

        1. The programs are typically run by leftists with no real incentive to get people off the program — their jobs depend on people needing section 8 housing!

  4. I had heard that reluctance to rent to Section 8 tenants has been a reputation for a high incidence of hard use on the unit. the landlord’s don’t want to deal with the likely repair bills when such a tenant leaves.

    1. Exactly. The last section 8 tenants we had did $3,000 in damage in less than a year.

      1. Lesson: Don’t be a crony-capitalist.

        1. Crony capitalism didn’t work out like they promised me it would!

      2. According to Wikipedia, Section 8 tenants always take good care of the rental units, so they won’t lose their subsidy. Surely the web is not wrong?

  5. Gov’t housing programs are so good that landlords need to be forced to participate!

  6. This proposal is just another example of the costs of black and brown social dysfunction.

  7. Reason headline next year:
    San Diego faces severe rental housing shortage. City officials at a loss to explain ‘sudden’ drop in available units, demand new program to build low rent housing immediately. Tax increase of only 24% required.

  8. On inspections, he said it’s appropriate to require them when taxpayer funds are helping subsidize a rental.

    There’s your government at work – if you’re going to take the king’s gold, you’re going to do the king’s bidding. And if you don’t take the king’s gold, we’ll shoot you in the head. Isn’t that the premise of Obamacare?

    1. There’s your government at work – if you’re going to take the king’s gold, you’re going to do the king’s bidding. And if you don’t take the king’s gold, we’ll shoot you in the head.

      In Colombia they have a saying “plata o plomo”. Literally translated, it means “silver or lead”. As in, it’s an offer made to someone: “Take a bribe or take a bullet”.

      It’s not a “bribe” in this case, per se, but the parallels are definitely there.

  9. Supporters say that more than 85 percent of San Diego residents who receive those vouchers are non-whites and the measure will reduce housing segregation.

    No, what it will do is reduce the supply of rental housing as landlords decide it’s no longer worth it and start taking units off the market.

  10. Father-in-law owns several rental properties.

    Apparently land lords have access to a tenant ‘character history’ which is somewhat similar to a credit history check.

    He doesn’t care about skin color, but he is leery about accepting section 8 vouchers. It’s all about the property damage. Inspections and paper work he can handle. He just doesn’t want his properties trashed.

  11. Anyone who’s ever lived in or near, and/or just passed through in some cases, an apartment complex with even a modest number of section 8 residents knows exactly why landlords would refuse to accept section 8 vouchers.

  12. But at the same time the government can hold you responsible for the behavior of your rentees. For example, the gov tried to seize a hotel that had had a lot of police calls for drugs etc, even though it was the hotel who called the cops and cooperated. And then they wonder why the supply of rental housing goes down…

  13. I’d expect that the fraction of Section 8 recipients who are pains in the ass to their neighbors is well above 85%. And if landlords can’t legally exclude them, they’ll find other ways to do it (perhaps just by raising the rent). Otherwise all their decent tenants will move out.

  14. Not worth the aggravation, my brother’s tenant was a NYC school teacher and she slowly fell behind on her rent until it was legal to evict her, whereupon she moved out leaving mountains of trash.
    He bought a pair of cheap shoes he only wore during the hazcom clean up, the bathtub was literally black with grime and walking anywhere your shoes stuck to the floors.
    Of course when the NYC school teachers got their settlement checks a few years back, she promptly bought a new car instead of paying back rent.

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