Innovative Approaches to Landlord Outreach
According to a Housing News Highlights report 1, PHAs continue to face challenges when leasing up
Section 8 and WtW housing vouchers. While tight rental markets are
partially to blame, PHAs also struggle to sell these programs to
local landlords and find safe units for voucher recipients. As a
result, many recipients are unable to find units within PHA time
limits and end up returning their vouchers, unused.
PHAs face the following challenges when trying to lease up Section
8 and WtW housing vouchers:
- Because the economy has improved, landlords now can choose from
multiple applicants. Landlords are more likely to choose applicants
with good credit and income that can support rents at the market
- In many jurisdictions, voucher values have a difficult time
keeping up with the market. Consequently, landlords can make more
money when renting units at market rate than with vouchers.
- Many of these landlords are concerned that if they rent to voucher
recipients, perceived value of their property will decrease, thereby
reducing rents and owner income.
- Many landlords want to avoid unit inspections that may result
in costly repairs and upgrades to comply with federal codes.
- Many landlords have the perception that voucher recipients won't
take care of their units, thereby requiring more unit maintenance
and greater expense to the property.
Facing Leasing Challenges with Supply and Demand-side Approaches
PHAs have tackled leasing challenges using supply and demand-side
approaches. Supply-side approaches target landlords by improving
landlord participation rates and making more units available to
recipients. Demand-side approaches attempt to improve the "appeal"
of voucher recipients by improving recipient credit and income.
Demand-side approaches also include reducing the number of people
actually needing housing vouchers by either increasing recipient
income or moving them into homeownership opportunities. Some PHAs
have instituted programs to improve supply- and demand- side factors,
and WtW housing voucher programs can learn from these ideas. Here
are a few examples.
- Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (CA)
In 2000,HACLA held 36 meetings with groups of landlords to pitch
housing voucher programs and HACLA has 100 more workshops planned
for this year. HACLA is also partnering with several agencies
to 1) reduce the number of people seeking subsidized housing and
2) improve the quality of remaining applicants to make them more
attractive to landlords. They are achieving these goals by helping
recipients to find better paying jobs, improve their credit, and
move into homeownership opportunities.
- Alameda County Housing Authority (CA)
Alameda County is providing training programs to voucher recipients.
So far, 200 people in their program have received better-paying
jobs and 18 have become homeowners.
- Chicago Housing Authority (IL)
CHA expedites the inspection process with 24-hour inspections
for landlords. This program makes units available more quickly
to recipients and the process easier for landlords.
- Housing Authority of St. Louis (MO)
City officials held a housing fair in May 2000 that targeted prospective
tenants and landlords. Officials estimate that 200 prospective
tenants and 75 landlords attended the fair. In August 2000, housing
officials also met with local clergy to recruit new landlords.
The housing authority further tried a privatization program to
improve inspection speed and quality. In addition, St. Louis offers
a self-sufficiency program that has already helped 10 residents
move out of the Section 8 program. Several residents were also
able to buy their own homes after the housing authority allowed
them to place a portion of their rent into an escrow account to
be used for down payments. Twenty more residents currently are
in the self-sufficiency program.
- New Jersey's Department of Community Affairs (NJ)
The department hired an employee whose sole responsibility is
to work with landlords. This staff person recruits new landlords
by holding four to five outreach meetings each month. S/he also
provides ongoing support to recruited landlords to assist them
with questions and concerns about the program.
1 Housing News Highlights, "Even
with the Prized Section 8 Vouchers in Their Hands, Many Low-Income
People Cannot Find Decent Housing," Sherwood Research Associates,
December 7, 2000.