Renters on Section 8 routinely denied access to apartments in suburbs

Tammy Smith said she struggled to find a rental unit that would accept her federal housing voucher when she was forced to move out of her last home because the landlord was kicked out of the Section 8 program for alleged misdeeds.

Smith said she had to live with her sister for a while until she could find a place that accepted her voucher. She also needed time to save up enough money for a security deposit.

Smith said she was turned away by “more places than you can imagine” before she found her rental townhouse in Miami Twp., where she wanted to live to be closer to her family. She is 57 and has disabilities.

“It’s hectic,” she said. “As soon as you say you have Section 8, they are like, ‘No, we don’t accept it.’”

Smith’s experience is typical for people trying to find a place to live using a housing voucher, often referred to as Section 8. This is especially true if the renter wants to live in the suburbs, possibly closer to family or work.

Investigations by the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center have found higher rates of source of income discrimination in communities outside of the city of Dayton, said Erin Kemple, vice president of inclusive community development and special projects with the housing center.

The organization said it tested 15 local housing providers and a dozen said they do not take housing vouchers. Only two housing providers said they accept vouchers. One said it does not accept vouchers but might make an exception.

The Dayton Daily News called more than a dozen apartment complexes in Kettering, Centerville, Huber Heights, Vandalia and Fairborn and all of them said they do not accept Section 8 vouchers.

A Dayton Daily News investigation found the use of Section 8 vouchers is concentrated in high-poverty areas. Advocates say landlords in low-poverty areas refuse to accept the vouchers, and some people think a Dayton city ordinance requiring landlords to accept them threatens to concentrate them further in the city if there is no similar protection in the suburbs.

One of the goals of the Section 8 voucher program was to spread out people who receive housing assistance across the community to try to avoid poverty concentration.

Landlord concerns

Many landlords and housing providers say their main objections to the Section 8 housing choice voucher program is that it has overly burdensome rules.

“The housing voucher program is plagued with inefficiencies, burdensome regulatory requirements and a flawed funding systems,” said Jennifer Illanz, president of the Greater Dayton Apartment Association. “Lawmakers should address these issues to attract more housing providers’ participation.”

The Section 8 housing voucher program is meant to give people choices about where to live and many recipients want to live close to their families, their jobs, their support systems or near their children’s schools or in areas they believe provide good opportunities, said Jennifer Heapy, CEO of Greater Dayton Premier Management, the housing authority in Montgomery County that administers the program.

Heapy said she hopes Dayton’s source of income law gives voucher recipients more housing choices. She said it’s important that GDPM has a large pool of landlords who take vouchers, regardless of the location of their rental properties.

Heapy also said the public housing authority is taking steps to try to improve the program, such as by creating a landlord liaison.

She said GDPM is exploring providing additional incentives to get more housing providers to participate.

Heapy said there are some harmful myths about the Section 8 program and voucher holders.

“There is no statistical evidence that voucher recipients fail to pay their portion of the rent or damage units more than non-voucher tenants,” she said. “In fact, a voucher holder would be kicked off the program if they are evicted or damage a unit without paying for the repairs.”

Coming Monday: A legislative proposal aims to extend “source of income” protection statewide

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