The Section 8 Voucher is an oft debated program ran by the Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The naysayers are sometimes those who are financially solvent and only see the program as a economic drain.
And others are against the program because the portrayal of the poor in the media or, worse yet, judge it by the bad behavior of those taking advantage of the program in their very own neighborhood.
Yet, there are thousands of voucher participants who quietly go to work, raise their children, and live their lives. In fact, the only way that you could differentiate them from non-participants is if they told you.
And yet still, there are hundreds of thousands of applicants who would view receiving a voucher as a God-send.
Incomes have stagnated or declined for renters in many parts of the country.
And as the housing crisis pushed more people to rent instead of own, rental vacancy rates have dropped and apartment rents have gradually risen. As a result, a disproportionate number of households that rent are spending above what is generally considered an affordable percentage of their income on housing.
Many of these households are “cost-burdened” — meaning they spent at least 30 percent of income on rent and utilities. Two of every three renting households were cost-burdened.
Housing assistance providers say a wide gap exists between the area’s supply of affordable rental housing and the many residents who need it. What’s often considered to be inexpensive is still out of the price range of the area’s low-income residents. For many residents, just one financial hit — a medical bill, a reduction in work hours, a car repair — can cause them to fall behind on rent.
Some low-income households that find cheap rent are living in substandard housing that could be dangerous or unsanitary. Those who can’t find an affordable place or can’t get into a subsidized housing program, are doubling up with family, living in cars, or are out on the street.
And as the pool of renters has grown, some landlords have less difficulty finding new tenants and are less inclined to be patient with those who fall behind on rent.
Panicked renters who were being threatened with eviction or taken to court for unpaid rent, sometimes after falling only one month behind, often turn to Section 8 for assistance.
Anyone can fall under hard times. Even having an adequate savings account or investments or a superior education might not be enough in hard economic times. And even if it is not you, could you, personally afford to continually bail out a family member or close friend? Or take in their kids if they became homeless. Or, maybe, you would just turn your back as if they no longer exist.
Section 8 exists to stop homelessness.