City woos landlords for more low-income tenants SanTan Sun News

City woos landlords for more low-income tenants

January 25th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
City woos landlords for more low-income tenants
Community
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By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

The city of Chandler is trying to incentivize landlords to accept housing vouchers from low-income families that are increasingly struggling to find anyone willing to accept them.

Local landlords can now receive a $400 sign-up bonus for renting to a Chandler resident with a Section 8 voucher from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The new incentive is intended to help fill a housing deficit among voucher recipients who are struggling to find homes or apartments in Chandler.   

“We just don’t have landlords that are accepting the vouchers at this time,” said Amy Jacobson, city housing and redevelopment manager.

Chandler currently has about 100 families unable to find a landlord willing to take a voucher, she said, and the city’s supply of affordable housing continues to shrink.   

Rents have been rising across the Valley for the last couple years and more low-income residents are getting squeezed out of the housing market.

The city is only given 486 vouchers at a time to accommodate a waitlist of 4,000 applicants determined through a lottery system. Chandler’s waitlist opens up once every few years and the city must process all of the waitlist’s applicants before it can accept new applications.

Vouchers are dispersed based on an applicant’s income level and the recipient can have between 60 and 70 percent of their housing costs subsidized through federal funds.

Section 8 vouchers provide a stable source of income for landlords, Jacobson said, because the government disburses funds directly to the property owner rather than through the tenant.

The disbursements adjust whenever the tenant’s income changes, she added, so the landlord can still expect to get paid the same amount each month.

Despite these benefits, fewer vouchers have been used in Chandler this past year and many families are at risk of losing their benefits.     

“Our utilization is down and we’re wanting landlords to lease to our families to find affordable housing,” Jacobson said.

Even before the pandemic, local officials were straining to find enough affordable housing that could satisfy the demand.

Chandler and the greater Valley’s housing crisis has been in the making since the market crashed during the Great Recession, according to Dennis Hoffman, director of Arizona State University’s L. William Seidman Research Institute.

After the real estate bubble burst in 2008, Hoffman said developers suddenly stopped building new houses in Arizona. On top of that, the state passed legislation that shunned undocumented residents from wanting to work and live in Arizona. 

“This is a recipe for a shortage of housing,” Hoffman said during a recent virtual forum of local economists. “The value of housing has increased some 18 percent over the last year and the median home is about $330,000 today.”

Chandler, which has long been considered one of the Valley’s more affluent suburbs, appears to have a smaller supply of affordable housing than its surrounding communities.

GoSection8, an online database that lists affordable housing units across Arizona, shows only three units available in Chandler.

By contrast, Mesa has 53 units listed on the database and Phoenix has more than 70 available rentals.

Families that get a Section 8 voucher have about 60 days to find a landlord who will accept it. An extension can be given to those who can’t find one, but the voucher eventually expires and the applicant then loses their chance of using it.

“That’s why it’s really important once a family is issued a voucher, that they’re able to find housing fairly quickly,” Jacobson added. “Once it does expire, unfortunately, they’re not able to go beyond what the extension deadline would be.”

The incentive program is being paid with funds Chandler received through the Coronavirus Aid Relief Economic Security Act passed by Congress last March.

The federal government allotted $30 million for Chandler and the city has spent most of the funds assisting local businesses.

About $6 million has been spent on helping local residents avoid eviction, pay utility bills or find affordable housing.

Though Chandler hasn’t previously offered monetary incentives to prospective landlords, it’s not the first Valley city to use CARES Act funds to get property owners to accept Section 8 vouchers.

Phoenix started offering $500 bonuses in August and the city hoped the incentive would result in 300 new leases getting signed each month.

Landlords in Chandler must fill out an application and have their property undergo a safety inspection before redeeming the city’s bonus money.  More information on the city’s Section 8 program can be found at chandleraz.gov.

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