Housing is critical to a fair and equitable recovery. Assistance programs for the millions of people whose livelihoods have been affected by COVID-19 – rental assistance, eviction moratoriums and others – have been essential but temporary by design. However, the impacts of the pandemic are long-lasting, adding to the serious affordable housing challenges that existed long before the current crisis. It is time to enact long-term solutions that protect and keep American tenants in stable housing.
Fortunately, we know what works. One of the most impactful legislative measures that the federal government can implement to improve housing stability for families and individuals is the expansion of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, which allows very low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities to pay for a quality home. Universal Section 8 was a priority upon President BidenJoe Biden Biden Reaffirms His Commitment To Taiwan’s ‘One China’ Policy In Call With Xi Biden Raises Human Rights With China’s Xi During Four-Hour Biden Meeting, Xi Holds ‘Candid’ Discussion Amid Highs tensions MOREthe housing agenda during his presidential campaign. Now is the time to implement it!
Section 8 is vital to preventing people from experiencing homelessness in a housing market that has witnessed skyrocketing income across the country. It also enacts fair housing protections for families of color, who have been systematically denied housing options due to practices like redlining, exclusive zoning, and direction. More than 2.1 million from the US homes benefit from housing choice vouchers in a given year, and families of color make up the most of this population.
At the same time, the federal government should require that all homeowners nationwide accept housing vouchers. Section 8 only works if federal rental assistance is classified as a legal form of rent payment everywhere. But most US cities and states. they currently allow landlords to deny a tenant a home if they plan to use unearned income such as veterans benefits or Section 8 to pay their rent, through a practice called source of income discrimination (SOI).
Changing the systems that allow income bias to persist requires federal legislation outlawing SOI discrimination nationwide, with sufficient funds to enforce it. In New York, the State Coalition of Revenue Sources successfully led by Enterprise Community Partners fought make discrimination SOI illegal statewide in 2019, but to recent research by the Housing Rights Initiative in 88 New York City landlords found that people who pay rent with Section 8 vouchers and other non-wage benefits still experience bias.
Similarly, in 2019 California approved SB329, a state fair housing law that made housing vouchers a protected source of income; still recent research Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California have shown that SOI discrimination still persists, with landlords creating illegal solutions to avoid accepting vouchers. Washington, DC, also passed revenue stream protection in 2005 but, as recently as 2018, 15% of district owners voucher holders still rejected, according to The Urban Institute.
While homeowners can reject Section 8 vouchers for a variety of reasons, the decision is ultimately a proxy for keeping low-income people, particularly Black and Latino residents, off their properties. and local and state actions can only go so far to solve this problem. trouble. Our communities need legal sources of income protection and adequate enforcement measures at the federal level.. Only this two-pronged approach that introduces key legislation and provides the resources to enforce it will end revenue bias and safeguard housing for 11 million Americans who need and use federal assistance to pay rent.
As a candidate, President Biden pledged to universalize Section 8, and his budget for fiscal 2022 called for $ 5.4 billion for a coupon expansion. We urge Congress to include the Section 8 expansion in its appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2022. Additionally, to meet its goal of “rebuild better, ”And to enact real changes in the systems, President Biden must fight for the expansion of Section 8 and pressure Congress to pass the accompanying legislation codifying the protection of non-wage income forms for the payment of rent.
It is also essential that state and city leaders do their part by allocating funds to enforce and raise awareness of existing SOI and fair housing laws. State and municipal agencies should conduct training and SOI “Know Your Rights” outreach campaigns. Local governments have a strong understanding of housing issues on the ground and can target residents in greatest need.
Everyone deserves a place to call home, and now is the time to implement long-term transformative solutions for home stability. President Biden and Congress must act quickly to match Universal Section 8 with the protections and enforcement of federal SOI law. State and local governments should follow suit with increased fair housing law enforcement and awareness campaigns. With urgency and teamwork, but most importantly, humanity and a commitment to constituents, our leaders can lift up the most vulnerable Americans in the hope of a stable home.
Jacqueline Wagoner is president of the Solutions division of Enterprise Community Partners, a national nonprofit affordable housing organization.