An open letter to landlords and apartment managers

With homelessness in America spiraling out of control and homeowners and apartment managers able to rent out properties at obscenely high rates, you are in effect causing the homeless crisis. Nobody can criticize any of you individually because supply and demand is the main reason for the crisis. There simply isn’t enough affordable housing to go around for those in need. 

Most homeowners or apartment managers either don’t know about the government program created by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Section 8 voucher program, or they don’t trust it simply because it’s a government program. That program assists low-income Americans to pay rents they otherwise could not afford, sometimes paying as much as 70 percent of a tenant’s rent. I know that because I am a member of that program, and if it were not for that voucher, I would not be able to live almost anywhere in the state of California on my income.

The issue we voucher holders have is that there are not enough homeowners or apartment managers who are part of the program and that the few who are have waiting lists that are years long, so we end up with vouchers in our hands and nowhere to use them. Recently, while scrolling through rentals in the Santa Barbara area where I want to live, not a single one of the 960 properties listed stated that they accept the vouchers.

Before receiving said voucher, applicants must prove they are American citizens, and they are thoroughly vetted by the government through the local Housing Authority. You cannot be a convicted felon and be part of the program or they cancel your voucher. Being a government program, it ensures you are low-income qualified. With the Housing Authority’s thorough vetting process, landlords can rest assured that all Section 8 voucher holders are worthy of consideration for a rental.

Any homeowner/apartment manager in America can participate in the program. An owner’s obligations include only the paperwork involved and making sure their property can pass a simple once-a-year inspection for things like running water, sealed windows, heating, smoke alarms, etc. Just like the Social Security Administration deposits all Supplemental Security Income program payments electronically each month, that’s how HUD pays its portion of the rent and the tenant sends their portion to the landlord.

If more homeowners/apartment managers opted to rent their properties out in collaboration with HUD, they would be aiding low-income Americans find much-needed housing and keep many of them from becoming another homeless statistic. 

Joseph Cortez
Santa Maria

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