Ninja Moves on Section 8

No, It's Not Three Times the Rent

Credit: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

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In spite of Rob Fredericks’ encouragement for local landlord to accept Section 8 tenants, the truth is that very few landlords are willing to give them a chance.

I hold a Section 8 housing voucher and am presently looking for a one-bedroom unit. I am growing weary of doors shutting in my face as I search for a landlord or property management company that willingly accept my voucher. I’ve been turned down so frequently that I no longer even see units — I jump straight to the chase — what is their policy regarding taking Section 8 applicants? It’s really a trick question, because I know what the accurate answer should be, and I’m checking to see if they know.

First there’s an uncomfortable silence. Some just say, “We don’t take Section 8 tenants.” Others are more informed about the new housing regulations put out on January 1, 2020, and they know they can’t discriminate against Section 8 tenants. Then, they take a breath and tell me hurriedly, “Well, we take Section 8 tenants, but you need to have an income that’s three times the rent.”

The “Three Times the Rent” is a loophole that property management companies are using to deny Section 8 applicants fair access to housing on their properties. Not only is that wrong, it’s illegal. It’s time to bring these big, fat property management companies to issue with their faulty understanding of the new laws.

I presently have five Housing Discrimination Complaint forms that I’m preparing to file with the City of Santa Barbara Community Development Department. These are five management companies that have told me that I need to make three times the contract rent in order to apply. I’m not filing these complaints just for me, I’m doing it for all the Section 8 applicants in Santa Barbara that are desperately trying to find a place to live. The new law states that the “three times the rent” is applied to the portion that the tenant pays toward the rent — not three times the contract rent.

The biggest injustice I’ve faced is that when I was issued a housing voucher and took it to my property manager. He told me I needed to make three times the rent. I looked at him incredulously. I asked him, “If my income were three times the rent, why would I even have this voucher?” I was suspicious of his response. Little did I know that would be the typical answer I’d get over the course of the next two months when I tried to apply with my housing voucher. I felt I had no recourse and quietly submitted my 30-day notice. I went to live with a relative.

This “Three Times the Rent” is a loophole that landlords here in Santa Barbara use to continue to deny fair access to Section 8 applicants. But my Section 8 time clock is ticking and I don’t have a place yet. I would like to be given a chance. I would like to not be lumped into a category with all the Section 8 tenants who give us a bad rap. I would just like a cute little place to call home. Hopefully, I will find it yet.

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