Blog by Gina Thompson, Intern
During this period of social distancing, a place to call home can provide an additional layer of protection and safety. And these days, home has not just been where we live, but for many, where we work and where our kids go to school, too. It’s been our whole world for more than a year.
But not everyone has access to housing that affords them a safe place to call their own. And we need to change that.
That’s why the League is excited to announce our new Housing, Choice, and Opportunity campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. The HCV program is a federal program that supports landlords by helping tenants with low incomes pay their rent on time. Be sure to tune into our social media every Thursday starting March 25 for quick facts about the important role of these housing vouchers in stabilizing our communities and the economy.
Across the state, many Michiganders are still struggling to find housing that is safe, quality, and affordable amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic due to the economic downturn. It is because of this that housing instability is also a public health crisis. Currently, 4 in 10 Michiganders with lower incomes are experiencing houselessness or pay more than half their income for rent, with 43,880 being children in unstable housing environments.
It is not just renters who are feeling the impact of instability and uncertainty. According to survey results, some property owners are struggling along with their renters. As of February 2021, 1 in 5 renters reported that they were behind on rent, meaning property owners cannot collect consistent payments. The most affected landlords own fewer than 10 properties, which can jeopardize their mortgage payments and supplemental income, forcing some to consider selling the property—a decision with ramifications that could last well beyond the pandemic.
While many are left dealing with instability and tough decisions, a fraction of property owners have been receiving consistent payments from their tenants by participating in the HCV program, which gives eligible families, people who are disabled, and seniors with low incomes the freedom to find privately-owned rental housing. Although this program is federally funded, local agencies administer voucher payments directly to landlords on behalf of tenants and oversee the process.
Unfortunately, there were already more people on the waiting list than available housing pre-COVID and the economic downturn has not made the affordable housing shortage any better. In Michigan, there are 272,900 people currently using vouchers to live in safe, affordable housing. Because this assistance reaches only 1 in 4 income-eligible renters, many are left on the waiting list.
Faced with the alternative of losing their investment, landlords may find that there are several benefits to accepting tenants who use housing vouchers with the primary incentive being timely and consistent payments. Another attractive benefit of accepting voucher recipients is that there will always be a prospective renter. In a world where every month an investment house sits empty means lost revenue, voucher properties will never sit empty because they are in such high demand.
In order to receive housing assistance, tenants must meet certain requirements established by the federal government. This adds an additional layer of background information that prospective tenants are able to provide before renting—another benefit for landlords.
Housing choice vouchers provide long-term dependability for landlords in addition to renters, and this can make all the difference during economic downtown. To learn more about the benefits to Michigan landlords and how they can participate, interested individuals can take a look at this e-brochure from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. And be sure to check in with the League every Thursday on our Facebook and Twitter pages and help us draw attention to this important service to help more residents find stable housing.
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