Letter: City Outreach Lacking in Discussion of Section 8 Voucher Rule

Karen Levenson says Kirkland is moving towards mandating that landlords accept federal Section 8 housing vouchers, but issues remain and the city is not adequately notifying the public.


To the Editor,

Plan to rent out a home, condo or apartment?  SWEEPING CHANGES COMING!

All landlords, or potential landlords, should be aware that the city has been quietly moving towards mandating that you must accept Section 8 vouchers.  And from what I hear, these can be good for helping folks pay for housing and they can be good for some landlords - particularly larger apartment complexes.  I have listened to those with experience who state that there is perhaps new difficulty with the section 8 housing vouchers in that move-out damage by a tenant is no longer part of the program.  Often those that qualify for section 8, by definition, may not be able to pay for any damage.  And there may be a host of other problems - Particularly for those renting a single home or condo, or a small number of units wherein they cannot absorb the cost of their tenant's "wear and tear" when there is no damage deposit.

What about HOAs that require damage deposits or move in fees when units are leased?  Does a landlord now have to pay the HOA a damage deposit, fees (etc) out of their own pocket in order to fulfill their obligation to accept Section 8 tenants?   What about the cost of HOA rules infractions?  Generally those are billed back to the tenant.  There does not appear to be a provision for covering these costs with the Section 8 program.  So again, a small scale landlord will be paying these fines for their tenant. This will cause HOA chaos since the whole reason for rules and fines is to make the tenants (owners and renters) incentivized to follow the rules.

So would citizens expect that the city council could enact a massive change in city laws without outreach, public input, or a vote, or anything?

Would citizens expect their city to dictate who they must accept as tenants? Again, without notifying the public that they were changing the laws?

The City Council asked Kirkland Staff to conduct outreach on this issue.  They made that request in November.  It appears a select group of folks were given advance invitation (they seemed all to be from formal organizations supporting Section 8 housing).  Those who had spoken against this type of mandate in prior years claim to have heard NOTHING about the meeting. There were only two attendees who are property owners or landlords from Kirkland. ... and one was someone that I personally alerted.  What was the city's outreach?  (An email to a small email list just 26 hours before the meeting).  When I got that email I promptly notified the papers and blogs and we got something into them hours before the meeting was to be held.

So, Kirkland, where is the outreach?  Where is the public process?  Do we have a government that just enacts laws that impact tens of thousands of citizens and businesses whenever someone "in power" gets the itch to change something?

Come on. This type of behavior needs to change.

-Karen Levenson, Kirkland

Karissa J February 01, 2013 at 05:57 PM
"From what you hear"...you have heard wrong. The Section 8 housing voucher program requires all tenants be treated and behave no differently than "normal market" tenants. That means that YES, they pay a damage deposit just like anyone else. Landlords may also screen for credit, references just like any other tenant. The Housing Authority also requires (and preforms at no charge) a yearly inspection of the home, to ensure the tenant is taking proper care of the property and so is the Landlord. Tenants pay a portion of their income in rent themselves and are held to the SAME standards of paying on time, risk of eviction and the like as anyone else. A Section 8 recipient can be fined, and can be banned from the program for failure to pay damages to a Landlord. though proper public notice is a viable concern, please research your facts before making claims that negatively paint the recipients of this program and the housing authorities that manage them. King County Housing Authority has a very informative website and easily accessible information on these and other programs.
Karen Levenson February 02, 2013 at 12:26 AM
Karen Levenson Karissa J • 40 minutes ago − Well I am going to share my belief that honest folks can agree to have different perspectives. I wrote quickly because I had more questions than answers and had heard good and bad anectodal information. My blog was to make sure that this didn't stay under the radar and was to have folks investigating and asking questions. That is why I chose to list a bunch of questions and not provide any answers. I cannot really see anything in my email that is more than questions from someone very alarmed at the sudden meeting and not even knowing where to turn for answers; but perhaps as the author I cannot see something unintended that others would read into this. (see part 2)
Karen Levenson February 02, 2013 at 12:28 AM
Karissa, I will share that I am frustrated beyond belief. I have responsibility not only to my own family but as an HOA president I try to keep all our owners and renters abreast of current trends and I try to give them all information in time for them to research and participate. I was out of town when this meeting was announced for the next day. I had too many projects to even make more than one email and then a quick Letter to Editor hoping that those that might have input (good or bad) or questions would have sufficient time to become part of the process. I continue to believe that having this come forward just about 2 weeks before city council is going to vote is a disservice to everyone. I am not sure when we, as a city will realize that anytime you try and shove something down someones throats the will instinctively gag. It could be the finest, delicious chocolate but if you shove it in - gag. I hope we will soon learn to introduce ideas to our community, develop "buy-in," educate and allow for research and shared opinions. I am getting tired of gagging.
Karen Levenson February 02, 2013 at 12:29 AM
By the way, here's a link to the meeting minutes. It sounds like many brought up the same questions that I had. Hopefully the city will extend the time and provide more thorough outreach. I'd love to be party to a meeting where I can learn more. Thanks for the suggestions on where to find some more information. I've already taken a look. It doesn't answer all my questions but it helps me understand that this is a complex issue. Link to meeting minutes just released: http://www.kirklandwa.gov/Assets/Planning/Planning+PDFs/Section+8/Section+8+Voucher+January+23$!2c+2013+Community+Meeting+Notes.pdf
Karissa J February 02, 2013 at 01:01 AM
I'm really not sure where one can have "different perspectives" when facts are involved. It is a FACT and a FEDERAL REQUIREMENT that Section 8 recipients can be screened, credit checked, referenced checked and CHARGED DEPOSITS like any other "normal" tenant. The first several paragraphs of your letter are all hyperbole and hypothetical assuming they cannot based on "what you've heard". The answer to ALL your HOA questions are simple: A Section 8 recipient is held to the EXACT SAME STANDARDS as any "normal" tenant in terms of leases, HOA rules, Landlord/Tenant laws *and* they are required to go through a lengthy recertification process every year and are subject to a mandatory inspection by a housing authority representative to ensure *both* landlord and tenant are caring for the property. Can a "normal" tenant be evicted for not mowing the lawn? Because a Section 8 recipient can. The FACTS are not in dispute. You can be honest and change your letter that your issue is with the City telling you not to discriminate against these people, and that very little notice was given.
Karissa J February 02, 2013 at 01:06 AM
it is my opinion that ANYONE who is a Landlord, HOA manager, apartment manager, renter or in any way otherwise connected to the renting of property has a RESPONSIBILITY to inform themselves. Federal HUD programs, LandlordTenant Laws- are all easily and readily available on multiple government sites, library books, and so on. To be in the industry in any fashion and be uninformed is a failure of that duty. This ordinance is *not* forcing anyone to accept a tenant. It's saying you cannot say "section 8 not allowed", no different than saying "no gays" or "no single moms".
Karen Levenson February 02, 2013 at 03:21 AM
Karissa I don't know why you are adding issues of hate or discrimination into this discussion. I have merely stated that I don't know what the changes will mean and I want time for myselves and others to understand. Understanding and trying to understand is not a bad thing. Please don't make this about something that it is not.. Thanks a bunch.
Karissa J February 02, 2013 at 05:57 PM
That is what the ordinance is about! Not discriminating based on a not for cause factor!- you could have written a letter that included none of your false hypothetical ans simply said "I don't know how this program works and the City gave me no time to find out". But you didn't. And you still won't. You could have posted facts and acknowledged your emotional, but wrong, insinuations and hypotheticals. You could be commenting with grace and keeping the topic on the City notice issue, but you arent doing that either. Your words do harm to others. Real people. I will continue to post anywhere I see gossip, rumor, false claims, and lies about the FACTS of what this program is. "Sweeping changes" are not coming. "Thanks a bunch"
Important To Know February 03, 2013 at 05:19 PM
FEDERAL COURT RULING - SECT 8 VOUCHERS VOLUNTARY FOR LANDLORDS “When Congress created the Section 8 program, it explicitly made the program voluntary because it recognized that there are costs and burdens imposed on property owners who choose to participate,” said Jim Arbury, NMHC/NAA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs. “Now states and localities are trying to alter the voluntary nature of the program by passing so-called “source of income” non-discrimination laws that essentially make property owner participation mandatory.” To date, all of the federal appeals courts that have considered the preemption issue have upheld the supremacy of federal law or Congressional intent where it directly conflicts with a state or local law. “Not only do these state and local laws contradict Congressional intent, they also impose an unconstitutional burden on property owners,” explained Arbury. “We understand that states and localities are struggling with a shortage of affordable housing, but mandating participation in the Section 8 program is not an effective solution to that problem,” and “In fact ... actually jeopardize the continued success of the Section 8 program because the practical result of such laws could increase rental rates and reduce the number of units available.”
Karissa J February 05, 2013 at 08:59 PM
No one, no where, at all has EVER rightfully suggested Kirkland is *mandating* that Landlord's accept SSection8. NOWHERE in the ordinance is it even hinted at. The only ones claiming such a farce as those who refuse to educate themselves or are unwilling to admit that they don't want "poor people" renting in their neighborhood. READ THE PROPOSED ORDINANCE. It is STILL voluntary and you can STILL screen your tenants, you just cannot say NO to an otherwise qualified tenant ONLY because of Section 8.


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