The Seattle Housing Authority manages 10,000 Section 8 housing vouchers and remains the largest program in the county. But a new report from The Seattle Times shows that the city’s high housing costs are forcing a large number of voucher holders to transfer out of the city.
Funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Housing Choice Voucher Program helps poor, elderly and disabled renters across the US pay for housing. It is managed by local public housing authorities, and provides renters with payment vouchers that they can use to secure privately owned housing. Each voucher is good for a portion of the tenant’s monthly rent.
To obtain a voucher, renters must qualify for and win a lottery. Once granted a voucher, recipients have 60 days to find housing before the voucher expires. Voucher holders can request another 60 days if necessary, but the time limit can be challenging.
Part of the problem is that many landlords deny housing to those using Section 8 vouchers — even though there is a Seattle ordinance that prohibits discrimination against rental applications from people using those vouchers, as well as other alternative income sources. In fact, a sting operation earlier this year by the Seattle Office of Civil Rights found that nearly two-thirds of landlords treated people posing as prospective renters differently based on whether they had Section 8 vouchers.
As The Seattle Times points out, rising rent has also made it difficult for Section 8 voucher holders to find places to live. “There just doesn’t seem to be anything there for me,” one voucher user told the publication.
The result is that many people are transferring their vouchers from Seattle to other jurisdictions. According to figures obtained by The Seattle Times, in 2011, 1,770 Section 8 tenants transferred their vouchers from the city. The total in 2015 was 1,938.
Where are they going? For the most part, to other parts of King County — in 2011, 2,396 Section 8 tenants transferred their vouchers to the King County Housing Authority, while in 2015, a total of 2,739 tenants arrived. Unfortunately, prices in historically less expensive Seattle suburbs like Renton are now experiencing their own housing price increases, pushing Section 8 voucher holders even further out.
With rent prices unlikely to fall in the near future, many must continue the difficult search for basic shelter.