Last year the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles (HACLA) revealed its plan to offer new incentives to landlords who participate in the federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program.
Spurred by an ever-growing waiting list of Section 8 applicants, the HACLA has since created two programs to encourage landlords to accept housing vouchers:
- the Landlord Veteran Incentive Program (VIP), which provides landlords financial and move-in assistance to hold vacant units for veteran applicants; and
- the Homeless Incentive Program (HIP), which offers landlords funding and move-in assistance to house homeless tenants and families.
The programs are part of two larger projects to reduce homelessness in Los Angeles County:
- the Homes for Heroes Initiative; and
- the Homeless Prevention Initiative.
Both initiatives are funded in part by the LA Board of Supervisors, bringing LA closer to its goal of reducing homelessness across the county — an effective plan that has so far reduced the homeless veteran population by 41% from 2015 to 2016.
Program assistance to landlords
Section 8 — funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and administered by local housing agencies — provides rental assistance to low-income, senior and disabled tenants. The program requires tenants pay rental amounts equal to 30% of their monthly income and subsidizes the remainder of the monthly rent, paid directly to the landlord on the tenant’s behalf.
However, Section 8 tenants in LA County struggle to find landlords who accept housing vouchers. Landlords often pass up Section 8 applicants due to:
- fears Section 8 tenants are financially unreliable and, thus, a risk; and
- the relatively low rent limits allowed by the Section 8 program, which induce landlords to opt for tenants who can afford higher rental amounts.
For example, as of 2016, Section 8’s rental limit for a one-bedroom unit is $1,166 across LA County. Any portion of the monthly rent in excess of the limit is to be paid by the tenant directly. With rents across LA County often exceeding these modest rent limits, Section 8 tenants are inevitably priced out of the market and unable to compete with other tenants.
The HACLA’s newest programs aim to offset the risk to landlords by providing financial incentives. Both VIP and HIP provide monetary assistance, which includes:
- one month’s free rent to hold vacant units;
- coverage of a security deposit;
- funding for minor repairs;
- utility assistance; and
- furniture essentials.
Landlords participating in VIP or HIP also receive additional assistance to ease them into the program, such as:
- expedited housing inspections;
- a dedicated HACLA staff member to assist with the program;
- qualified referrals from HACLA to fill vacancies; and
- reliable rental payments directly from the HACLA.
Further reducing risk to landlords is the HACLA’s Damage Claims component, which permits landlords to file a claim for damage to their unit after a Section 8 tenant moves out. Any amount for repairs beyond the security deposit will be reimbursed to the landlord by the HACLA following a move-out inspection.
Landlords interested in participating in LA County’s Section 8 programs need not worry about complicated rental procedures, since they follow much of the same protocol encountered in regular landlord-tenant transactions — with a few additional steps. To take part in VIP or HIP, landlords need to:
- complete a pre-Request for Tenancy Approval form;
- schedule an inspection of their vacant unit with the HACLA;
- enter into a signed agreement with the HACLA to hold a unit for a homeless or veteran tenant;
- await referral from the HACLA for a qualified tenant to occupy the unit; and
- once a tenant is placed, enter into a lease agreement with the tenant.
More information about VIP and HIP is available on the HACLA’s website: http://www.hacola.org