published Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Voucher cuts hit Chattanooga landlords

Stan Brown, who owns and manages properties rented and available to Section 8 residents, stands inside a house Brown recently restored and upgraded for potential residents. Chattanooga Housing Authority officials say landlords signing leases in 2012 will receive a 14 percent reduction in rent payments.
Stan Brown, who owns and manages properties rented and available to Section 8 residents, stands inside a house Brown recently restored and upgraded for potential residents. Chattanooga Housing Authority officials say landlords signing leases in 2012 will receive a 14 percent reduction in rent payments.
Photo by Jenna Walker.
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IF YOU GO

The Chattanooga Housing Authority will meet with current and prospective property owners participating in the Housing Choice Vouchers program.

• What: Housing Choice Vouchers property owner/manager meeting

• When: 6 p.m. Jan. 26

• Where: CHA office, 801 Holtzclaw Ave.


VOUCHER PAYMENTS

Type 2011 2012

Efficiency $577 $504

1 bedroom $610 $533

2 bedroom $718 $628

3 bedroom $884 $773

4 bedroom $1,039 $909

5 bedroom $1,195 $1,045

6 bedroom $1,351 $1,182

7 bedroom $1,507 $1,318

Source: CHA


BY THE NUMBERS

• 1,200: Local property owners in the Housing Choice Vouchers program

• 14 percent: Reduction in 2012 rent payments

• 250: New families expected to need landlords accepting vouchers in 2012

• 3,140: People who currently have vouchers

Source: CHA

Within a few months, the Chattanooga Housing Authority expects to need many more landlords willing to accept hundreds of low-income families whose rent is paid or subsidized by the federal government.

But a looming 14 percent reduction in rental payments combined with a booming private rental market threatens the agency's ability to land new landlords and keep the ones it has.

Stan Brown manages or owns 10 properties that are available to tenants in the Housing Choice Vouchers program, but he says the 14 percent cut will cause him to reconsider his options for maximizing the value of his property.

"The demand for rental property is so great that it merits an increase in rental value rather than a decrease," said Brown, owner of Success Realty.

"A lot of people can't buy because of the economy, but they have jobs, so they are out to rent," he said. "They're paying premium dollar and you don't have to go through the red tape of a Section 8 voucher system."

Section 8 was the previous name of the Housing Choice Vouchers program, a federally funded initiative to house low- to moderate-income residents.

Some property owners like the program because it assures that at least a portion of a tenant's rent is guaranteed.

The cuts will be effective Jan. 1 for owners leasing new units.

For participants remaining in their current units, the decrease in rental payment won't occur until after Jan. 1, 2013.

Brown is among 1,200 current property owners in the local voucher program who provide private housing for more than 3,000 low-income renters.

CHA's executive director, Betsy McCright, said all current voucher holders have been able to find housing, but the agency expects hundreds of families to need landlords who will accept vouchers when Harriet Tubman, the city's second-largest housing site, is vacated in preparation for its sale.

"We're applying for new vouchers for the families at Harriet Tubman," McCright said. "I hope that we'll get new landlords because of that. That's a big lease-up that we're expecting. It's probably going to be 250 to 300 vouchers."

Housing officials will start meeting with Tubman tenants to discuss relocation options after Jan. 1, McCright said.

Affordable shortage

The decrease in rental payments in Chattanooga comes amid a shortage of affordable housing across the country.

According to data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition's American Housing Survey, the number of rental units affordable for very poor families decreased by 600,000, while the population needing those units increased by 700,000.

Between 2007 and 2009, the shortage of rental homes that are both affordable and available for very poor households grew from 5.2 million to 6 million, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition's website.

Meanwhile, the lagging economy and stiffer mortgage loan requirements by lenders have reversed decades of rising home ownership and turned many prospective buyers into renters.

'Recession-proof'

Despite the looming payment cut to property owners in Chattanooga, CHA board chairman Eddie Holmes said the housing authority is to be commended.

"The housing authority doesn't receive proper credit for what we do," he said at CHA's recent board meeting. "We put back into the community in excess of $20 million in rent supplements. This is money we're paying to property owners for renting their property."

McCright noted that rental payments for the program are guaranteed.

"It's a recession-proof program," she said.

Housing Choice Vouchers tenants pay a third of their income toward rent and the voucher pays the difference. If a tenant loses his job, the voucher will pay the full rental amount.

"So a landlord is always made whole regardless of what the tenant is experiencing," McCright said.

But former housing voucher landlord Robin Byrd said the rent received isn't worth the trouble.

Properties must meet HUD guidelines before owners can receive rental payments. Homes can't have broken, rotten or missing steps on stairs or porches or electrical fixtures that don't work. All bedrooms used for sleeping must have at least one window. CHA inspectors ensure that guidelines are met.

But Byrd said the inspectors are inconsistent. While one CHA inspector allowed a tenant to move into a home with storm doors, another inspector said six months later that the doors had to be removed.

She also said she didn't get paid once because she couldn't get a repair done in time. And when her tenant got a job, she had to collect money from the tenant and the housing authority to get a full rent payment, she said.

"It's a hassle," she said.

She participated in the program for two years before renting to someone without a voucher, but that's not a perfect situation either, she said.

"Neither way is easy," she said.

Without the voucher program, "you have to deal with people not paying rent," she said.

"The difference is that since you are totally the landlord, no one can come and make you do something to the property."

Why the decrease?

Rent subsidies are falling because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has traced an approximate 14 percent decrease in "fair market rents" for the Chattanooga/Hamilton County area.

Tammie Reeves, voucher program director for CHA, said the housing authority sets rental payments based on HUD's annual tables of fair market rental values.

"This is the first year in several years that there was actually a decrease in fair market rent," said Reeves. "We set our payment standards at 100 percent of the fair market rent and there will be an approximate 14 percent decrease for next year."

CHA board vice chairman Jim Sattler said he worries about the impact of the rent decrease.

"In today's market you'd like to think you could get increases; instead it's going to go the other way," he said.

"It's definitely not going to be received real well, and hopefully it's not going to weed out some of our finer landlords who are providing Section 8 availability."

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about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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tscoyle said...

It's sad but property taxes have gone up, insurance has gone up, sewer and water has gone up. Now the government has decided that income will go down. This is why properties are allowed to decay. I don't have any section 8 renters at this time. I won't rent section 8 to a new renter because of the problems associated with the program renters. The owners that do rent section 8 are going to have a rough time, my sympathy to them and their renters.

December 23, 2011 at 9:59 a.m.
zulalily said...

Sometimes these stories just boggle the mind. There are all of these free-loaders who tax payers must house from the cradle to the grave!

December 23, 2011 at 10:12 a.m.
ThinBlue706 said...

I am not advocating anything or pushing any ideology, but.......What happened before all these programs were implemented? The Great Depression was from Oct. 1929 until, officially 2nd quarter 1953. That is when the stock market made it back to it's previous high. Actual return to productivness was 1942 with the onset of U.S. involvment in WWII. There were no safety nets in the 1930's. I AM NOT ADVOCATING a return to these stringent fiscal policies! But, how about some common sense and some SELF reliance. Multiple generations living in public housing. Generation after generation of broken families or just "baby daddies" that have no personal or fiscal interest or responsibilities for the children.

Anytime the government gets involved in something to "help", it becomes a disaster. San Francisco has a contract to paint the Golden Gate Bridge. The contract was won by a Chinese company. No American company could come CLOSE to the bid. This because of U.S. government red tape and regulations that a U.S. company working on a local government contract must adhere to. Same way with HUD and CHA. It is more trouble to rent a HUD house than it is to rent to a private individual. People would rather deal with some renters being behind and possible property damage than the "recession proof" and "guranteed income" of HUD and section 8. How sad is that.

You want this to work? Stream line the paperwork, regulations, and inspections. Build in SELF accountability, monetarily and structurally. Pay a going rate and DEMAND accountablity from the owners and the renters. We would then have a streamlined, working government program (what a thought!) with accountability from the renters and owners. Most importantly we would be help those in need and help those help themselves....building pride and self-reliance. Long term solution for a long term problem.

December 23, 2011 at 11:14 a.m.
onetinsoldier said...

Until employers pay a living wage, moaning about freeloaders is useless. Most people would rather work and make good money than not work. Wasn't too long agao that one income would support a family of four. But when the poor have no future and are doomed to slave wages and no way up, then there is no incentive. Big business has destroyed the middle class and the repugnant party are the primary idiots responsible for allowing it.

December 23, 2011 at 2:07 p.m.
frayne48 said...

I am clueless about this whole section 8 housing issue, what does one need to do in order to qualify for section 8 housing ? I can understand why the rent subsidy is going down in light of the economic conditions and the overall housing market being poor.

December 23, 2011 at 2:33 p.m.
Oz said...

Both parties have sold out the middle class. Clinton signed off on NAFTA and gave China most favored nation status. He did it with help of Republicans and Democrats. Nobody forced him to sign off. The middle class, trying to stretch a dollar for the last 25 years, has made committed economic suicide buying imported goods instead of paying a few dollars more for made in the USA. Wal-Mart cannot sell imported products unless we buy them. If we seek out made in the USA products, retailers will stock them or go out of business. We need to vote with our wallet as well as the ballot box.

December 23, 2011 at 2:45 p.m.
ginagirl43 said...

This is total crap! I'm not renting my property out to them anymore. Can't get anybody on the phone at the CHA Voucher office. Been trying to two days. They are inefficient and incompetent. Want to tell them that their S8 renter skipped out on me, owing money. No more.

December 23, 2011 at 2:51 p.m.
talkthetalk911 said...

Excellent post thinblue! As to the comment about onetin made. I kind of agree with you. Kind of. No doubt there is corperate greed along the way. No by every company but fools to say none at all. As to your comment about one income supporting a family of four. Yes it did happen. But im sure that those homes supported were very modest with out all modern technologies to go along with it and probebly back in a time where there were more mom and pop stores that competed with price, locations and advertisement and at a time with out all of the government regulations and local red tape to boot. Thin blue has a very good point. Name one thing that the government is involved in that isnt in a mess. Name one thing in your life besides sleeping that the government does not have their hand in. My point is that the government has out stretched their arms and spending beyond what the Constitution has gieven power to do. Why is it just wrong to hear that the government has to cut back. I do feel for the ones who may have to rely on assistance for a short time but there needs to be a reform for the multitudes of generations that have been produced by the program.

December 23, 2011 at 2:53 p.m.
Jake said...

I don't see a problem with a rent reduction. Afterall, it is the taxpayers paying these subsidies. And the Section 8 rates are not bad for basic housing. No one is forcing landlords to participate in this program. That is a business decision landlords must make. And as far as the tenants, they have made their own decision to rely on the government. They can work hard, quit having kids, and work to move themselves up. Jobs are out there; it is just a matter of gaining the necessary skills for the jobs that are available and having reasonable expectations about what a job will provide.

December 23, 2011 at 5:03 p.m.
onetinsoldier said...

Cut Government Back Indeed. Lets cut subsidies to farmers paid not to grow, oil companies, the hugely bloated military industrial complex, subsidies to Israel, subsidies to Boeing, Texas Instruments, companies like blackwater, countries like China (yes we subsidize China, with money we borrow from China). Lets not cut medical care for the elderly and disabled, Lets not destroy Social Security, Lets not fire teachers, firemen and police. The repugnants greed is evident in the choices they make when it comes to cutting. Government isn't bad, it's just broke, and it's not in the interest of the rich or repugnants to fix it. They like it broke.

December 23, 2011 at 5:05 p.m.
Lr103 said...

onetin, the haters on the poor here don't see who the real tit suckers are, corporate America. As the poor has always been used as the scapegoat and cover. While others are looking at them to blame, the wealthy CEOs, and like you say, farmers getting subsidized by the federal government not to grow crop, oil compnaies, a huge military complex, subsidies to countries that hate America, and taking money also from the enemy {playing both sides of the fence}, Boeing, Northrup, blackwater and the list could go on for all eternity. The poor takes the brunt end of the blame, when it's really big fat@ass corporate America that killing America's middle-classed. I'd rather that family getting 200 dollars a month in foodstamps and a roof over their head, than corporate America receiving 2,000,000,000,000+ to buy private jets where they can just jetson off to some tropical island and have endless parties with babes in teeny tiny bikinis serving any pleasure they might desire. And I mean any. Jealous? He*ll! yeah I'm jealous. I can't even afford a 20 buck street 'ho with no teeth, dammit!

December 23, 2011 at 5:24 p.m.
Echo said...

Maybe he can turn his apartments into brothels, he's already got a pimpin' hat. In general, subsidies artificially raise the cost of a commodity at a cost many times greater than the value imparted. Such is the case in farming subsidies and such is the case here. Think about the overhead of all of the mushrooms that sit around on their big fat cans handing out the cheese.

December 23, 2011 at 6:10 p.m.
SavartiTN said...

One tin soldier is right about the government spending. Corporations and farmers have always received more federal welfare than all of those "deadbeats" put together. Here's a list of program money spent by the federal government in 2011:

Housing Choice Vouchers- 18.2 billion;

Farm Subsidies - 25.0 billion;

Oil Company Subisidies - 36.5 billion (includes tax breaks)

One source on the farm subsidies: http://www.heritage.org/research/commentary/2011/03/farm-subsidies-ripe-for-reform

What gets me is that the average farm family income is $83,000/year while the average American family income is around $49,000/year. Those poor, poor farmers. And we all know what kind of salary those in charge of the corporations get. No sympathy from me there.

And to zululily..."freeloaders?" Do you actually know any of these people? I do. I know a young man who went on his own at age 19 and became a computer programmer making $1000/week without a college education. One day, while riding his motorcycle down the road observing all roadway laws including the speed limit, a little old lady pulled out in front of him, crippling him permanently. He lost the use of one of his hands...not a good thing for a programmer...then acquired a rare disease from the meds that makes him unable to leave his home. He gets $672/month in SSI payments which took him 7 years to get. He finally...after living for years in seriously substandard housing (think sewer floods and mold), he was able to get on Section 8. He was also able...after 10 years...to get a big old $16/month in foodstamps. He can never work again due to his injuries so how would you suggest he live? Or perhaps you would prefer that he did not live at all and, therefore, you could contribute your tax dollars to the war machine or the farmers or the corporations.

There is no compassion in America. And the most heartless seem to be the very Conservative who claim to have such moral values. If you are Christian then you must surely understand the New Testament and that Jesus said that the second most important commandment was "love your neighbor as yourself."

December 23, 2011 at 6:16 p.m.
Lr103 said...

@SavarTN

Wow! I think you summed it all up very nicely! But do you think those right wingNUT conservatives and their diehard followers are listening? The followers don't even know they're fighting against their own best interest. Most of'em are poorer or only 1 or 2 paychecks from being in the same position as the poor they're always bashing.

Let me tell them about how the private sector employers work. You work decades for the, fully invested, and the first time you're hurt on the job they fire you {company policy} if you're not back at work within a certain time frame. Usually 5 weeks is the max. Then you have to fight to the death get your company paid worker's comp. Then you have to fight even harder to keep it coming in. They actually hope you die fighting for it so they won't have to anything out.

Then in the private sector the closer you come to retirement they start a campaign to either fire you or force you to quit so they won't have to pay full retirement benefits. I've known people 6 months shy of retirement become so frustrated that they said F this sh/t! I'm out of here! Oh, they still got something, but a whole lot less. Plus they lose their company paid medical coverage or most of it if they quit or are fired shy of fully vested retirement.

People knock the U.S. Postal Service. But the truth is those government type jobs were created because primarily to hire veterans returning home from war, because the private sector refuse to. When ther private sector did hire a few it was because the federal government had to coddle, beg and offer them all kinds of perks, breaks and federal dollars to seduce them into hiring veterans.

Poor farmers have gotten rich getting federal dollars that pay them to not produce. Acres and acres of land go without crops because the government paid them not to plant, not to grow and not to harvest.

December 23, 2011 at 7:56 p.m.
Lr103 said...

continued:

Now, these section 8 vouchers actually help provide income for landlords. Most wouldn't be able to make a dime on their rental properties without section 8. Section 8 pays out some pretty big bucks to landlords to rent. I think the section 8 program would be better if all that money went towards the renter actually being able to own the home outright at some point rather than keep on paying hundreds, and even thousands of dollars on renting.

People who bash the poor just don't realize they're standing on the shoulders of the poor, and when those programs are knocked out, they lose a big portion of their own ability to survive. The private sector will always pay themselves first, and the rest are just crumbs they toss out. Look what happened when the federal gov. gave away all that bailout money to banks. They paid out big fat bonuses to themselves first. In Sweden or one of those countries, they paid the money out directly to the people, which in turn helped keep the economy afloat and that's why they're not facing the financial problems America is struggling with. As one young politician put it, "The federal government could paid every American citizen about 200 grand instead of giving money to these corporations and banks, and the country would not be having the financial problems it's presently struggling with. The money could have been used to pay down mortgages, pay down or pay off student loans etc., some used for whatever other purposes and the rest placed in an interest bearing account. But nooooooooo! The money was paid to corporations and banks who paid out million dollar bonuses to people who were already millionaires several times over!

December 23, 2011 at 7:57 p.m.
SavartiTN said...

Thanks, Lr103.

December 23, 2011 at 8:09 p.m.
tscoyle said...

Lr103 I suspect you know very little about renting property. It is a profit making venture. When the venture makes no money investors will cease owning property. Like all goods, when the demand is greater than the supply, the price goes up. Currently there is infact a shortage of rentals. The normal percent empty is 20%, currently, in this area, the rate is less than 12%. With even more entries into the market the rate will lessen and the cost will increase. The person who will foot the bill for this shortage is again the end user, the person who can least afford it. As to paying everyone 200 K. Why would you advocate paying yourself money that you would borrow from another to pay back at a higher rate? Sounds sort of like a circle?

December 23, 2011 at 10:21 p.m.
Lr103 said...

tscoyle, I know more than you give me credit for knowing. I know a lot of landlords renting to section 8ers who would not be landlords at all if it wasn't for the section 8 program.

The point of the 200K statement, was the fact that the federal government paid the money to bailout banks and corporations who used the money for everything but what it was intended. dah! Whereas, Sweden or one of those countries took the money straight to the people. Which in turn helped to stablize their economy.

December 24, 2011 at 12:54 a.m.
talkthetalk911 said...

Coming from a right wing "wacko" o gues i will say that i do not agree and did not agree with the corperate bail outs. I have the utmost compassion for humanity and strongly advocate for the ones who need help. Some of are the post are mean in nature..not every one on government assistance is a leech. The ones that were being refered to were the multigerational ones that either do not want better or feel that they are entitled to it. For "Savari" what about the part where the Bible says if a man wants to eat let him work for it. Not talking about the ones who can not but the ones who can and will not. and for the poster that refered to the post office. Yes the post office practice for years were to give priority to returning vets but that to changed over time. Article 1 section 8 established that Congress could spend money for post offices and post roads way back then. If the government would get back to the 18 enumerated powers of spending money then our government would not be broke.so what i hear is that its ok for the government to spend money if you agree with where it goes but not ok if they dont. i say get back to the basics of the Constitutional powers of spending and reign in the government power and hold all accountable(private or public).

December 24, 2011 at 9:57 a.m.
educator2012 said...

I totally agree with with thin blue said.. All that and then some!

December 24, 2011 at 4:21 p.m.
SavartiTN said...

I agree that there are changes that are needed in the Housing Voucher program just like any other government program. The system as it now allows people who have no other qualifications besides having a multiple children to remain on the program. Of course, these folks must pay 30% of their income for rent...which seems like a large percentage. I am curious...do most of you pay that percentage for your homes?

Paul...in 2 Thessalonians...was referring to the idle who were able bodied and refusing to work because they believed that Christ was going to return any day and they would be swept to Heaven...why work? But you are right. If they CAN work...if they can find a job in this economy...then they should work. But the voucher program as it is, is for low income families. And nowadays it is not hard to be considered "low income."

The sad part is, the housing voucher program rarely opens it waiting list so if you are newly "poor," you will just have to take a seat on the curb with the other folks wishing for a home for Christmas.

Happy Holidays!

December 24, 2011 at 10:50 p.m.
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