The Rental Housing Association, the largest association of rental housing owners (single family homes to multi-family communities) in the State of Washington, opposes Kirkland's proposed Section 8 program. The RHA supports the mission of vouchers for rental assistance as a tool to assist low-income renters with help finding safe and affordable housing. RHA has for years vocally lobbied in Olympia for more State funding of rental voucher assistance, and in 2012 was successful in passing HB 2048 aimed at making available more low-income rental voucher assistance for private market rental housing. Vouchers enable more housing choices for tenants and an opportunity to find a living space that fits an individual’s needs best.
However, RHA strongly opposes mandating landlord participation in the Section 8 program which is Federally voluntary. The private market has been shown to provide a more than adequate supply of units for Section 8 applicants to find housing, and the City of Kirkland cannot produce record of a single incident of a tenant complaining that they could not find housing in Kirkland due to a landlords' unwillingness to rent to a Section 8 applicant.
In addition to those reasons, RHA opposes Section 8 protections for the following:
- There is no shortage of landlords who will accept tenants who receive Section 8 vouchers. Tenants that are denied residency is usually due to criminal, credit or rental history. Rarely does a landlord deny tenancy solely because the tenant is a recipient of Section 8. Landlords should not be forced to participate in the Section 8 program.
- Protected class status for Section 8 voucher recipients does nothing to promote actual housing affordability. Rents do not decrease when Section 8 is made a protected class.
- It has also been the experience of RHA and its membership that in municipalities where Section 8 is a protected class the housing authorities which oversee the use of vouchers are less cooperative and willing to work with landlords when issues arise than are those where Section 8 is not protected.
- There are some landlords who have experienced significant administrative and financial burdens with the program.
- Property owners wishing to increase rent to Section 8 tenants may only raise the rent to the least amount of rent being charged for the same unit no matter what the circumstance may be such as choosing to not raise rents on elderly, long-term, and disabled tenants. This hinders landlords from charging market rate.
- Many property owners require residents to carry renters insurance because it provides liability protection and personal property coverage for residents in the event of an emergency or disaster. Some RHA members report that they have been told they cannot require Section 8 residents to have renters insurance.
- Federal regulations that govern the Section 8 program require one year leases for an initial term of tenancy with a new Section 8 resident. Some owners may not want to bind themselves or their property for a one year term. Our members report that most owners manage their lease expirations so there are a certain number of each floor plan expiring each month. These caps are based on traffic and other conditions. If an owner is required to always have 12 month leases they lose their ability to effectively manage their business.