The lack of low-cost housing makes it particularly difficult for people with housing choice vouchers – also known as Section 8 – to find housing, and some even lose the ability to use the program.
Raleigh resident Letrice Cox said she’s struggled for the past six months, spending more than $1,000 on application fees alone to get venues to accept her Section 8 voucher.
“It’s tough,” Cox said. “I spent all my money that I had saved.”
Cox’s voucher is $1,177 for an apartment for her and her children. That’s roughly $50 less than last year’s fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment, which the Raleigh Housing Authority uses to calculate its grant winners.
However, according to real estate site Zumper.com, the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the Triangle is around $1,600 per month, or $400 more than the good. And Cox said additional requirements made it almost impossible to find an apartment.
“It’s tough because you have to earn four times the rent,” Cox said. “You know, not everyone makes four times as much, especially if you’re a single parent.”
The Raleigh Housing Authority extended her voucher three times to help her buy more time.
“They only give you 30 days,” Cox said. “So once the 30 days are up after the three is over, they take it.”
Cox said that since she couldn’t find a landlord to accept her Section 8 bond, she and her children had nowhere to go.
Sherri Harris faces a similar situation.
“I try everything — apartments, condos, everything. Sublet, everything,” Harris said. “I can’t, no one will bite.”
Harris spent years on the waiting list before finally getting her voucher, but found it wasn’t enough to cover the cost of rent in Raleigh.
“I can’t find anything under $1,400, period,” Harris said. “I mean two bedrooms, one bathroom, and it was built in 1966.”
According to the Durham Housing Authority and the Raleigh Housing Authority, Housing Choice tenants pay 30% of their monthly income for rent, with at least $50 for rent and utilities.
Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords are not required to accept housing choice vouchers. While landlords can’t discriminate based on gender, race, or ability, they can check income, rent history, lease compliance, and criminal history.
Takeaways from the troubleshooter:
Before paying the application fee…
- Ask if the owner/property management company accepts Section 8 vouchers
- Ask how past rental history affects chances of approval
- Ask how many people have already applied for the rental unit.
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