Landlords may turn away voucher holders for a number of reasons, and in many communities they still have a legal right to discriminate against voucher holders solely based on the source of their income. Working with landlords to understand their concerns and address misunderstandings is important for promoting landlord participation, improving tenant–landlord relationships and creating a good public image for the HCV program. While landlords often can be viewed as a hindrance to mobility efforts, they are important stakeholders, and it is important to bring landlords into the conversation about mobility to help overcome biases and promote benefits to both parties.

Programming for landlords can take various forms, depending on local market conditions and housing needs. Many housing authorities provide landlord workshops to educate prospective participants in the HCV program, remind them of fair housing laws and explain how their participation can be beneficial for their business.

Case Studies

Landlord Bonuses (Dallas)

As a result of litigation in 1990, the Inclusive Communities Project (ICP) offers a mobility assistance program to all Dallas Housing Authority voucher holders. As part of this comprehensive program, mobility counselors work with landlords to encourage and incentivize acceptance of vouchers. ICP offers a one-time bonus—usually equaling around one month’s rent—to landlords who agree to lease to a voucher holder.

ICP encourages open and efficient communication between landlords and the Dallas Housing Authority and often acts as a liaison in times of confusion or frustration. There are very few protections for voucher holders in Texas, and landlords, particularly those in areas where voucher holders have not traditionally lived, can be reluctant to participate in the program. Much of the resistance from landlords is a result of a lack of understanding of how the program works and what commitments are required from them. Assisting landlords with paperwork and informing them of their obligations makes the process easier and takes some of the anxiety out of participating in the program. While ICP has been successful in recruiting many small-scale landlords that originally resisted the program, they are looking into innovative strategies to incentivize larger management companies in the region.

Since 2005, ICP’s program has assisted over 3,000 families with vouchers from the Dallas Housing Authority. ICP’s 2013 evaluation of the program found that, when compared to those that do not receive mobility assistance, black voucher holders receiving mobility assistance had greater access to neighborhoods with more opportunity and were less likely to live in areas of high distress.

For More Info:

Demetria McCain, Inclusive Communities Project
Email: [email protected]

Landlord Fund (Boston)

The Community Choice Voucher Program in metropolitan Boston has found success recruiting landlords in high-opportunity neighborhoods by financing unit repairs. The program grew out of litigation brought against HUD in the late 1990s by the NAACP Boston Chapter, resulting in the creation of a metropolitan-wide mobility program. The Consent Decree required HUD to allocate 500 housing vouchers to the Boston metropolitan area, 100 of which were to be administered by the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP). Voucher recipients were given an extended lease-up period of 120 days to find an apartment in a “choice” neighborhood. Choice neighborhoods in this region were defined as census tracts with less than 40 percent minority population.

In the early 2000s, the MBHP program received an allocation of $160,000 to design a more comprehensive mobility program, known as the Community Choice Voucher Program. While this funding allowed the organization to hire a mobility counselor to assist with apartment searches and community orientations, demand for housing at the time was extremely high, and it was often difficult to recruit landlords into the program. MBHP found that landlords would often pull out of the program if they were told they had to make repairs during the inspection process. Rather than spend the money to make repairs, landlords could easily opt out of the program and find a market rate renter instead.

MBHP worked to address this issue with the creation of a landlord fund to finance necessary unit repairs. As of 2014, 85 of the 100 choice community vouchers were used in high-opportunity areas.

Due to funding shortages, the Community Choice Voucher Program has had to cut back on services. While the landlord fund was a viable option for increasing the stock of voucher-eligible units in choice communities, MBHP has been unable to consistently sustain the fund throughout the years.

For More Info:

Susan Nohl, Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership
Email: [email protected]