The goal of this article is to provide facts about the program in an attempt to dispel the negative view held by some residents of Maple Heights. Can you tell which of the homes below accept “Section 8” vouchers or “regular” rental properties? We’ll never tell.
If you listen to some in Maple Heights, you would think that the downfall of our City, our nation and the planet was coming at the hands of Section 8 housing. This nefarious spawn of wickedness is often blamed for urban blight, unruly youth and the City’s financial woes. So we decided to research the program, and found that the facts paint a different picture.
What is “Section 8”?
Section 8, as it is most frequently referred to, even though it has been renamed Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP), is funded by the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In Cuyahoga County HCVP is administered by the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority. The goal of HCVP is to help low income households (whether one person or five) to be able to afford decent and safe rental housing via rental assistance subsidy.
The HCVP is run differently than many other assistance programs where you go, apply and begin to receive assistance. The waiting list for HCVP is closed and instead a lottery system is used. When the lottery is “open” interested applicants can put their name in to be on the wait list (whether or not they are eligible). Then when their name reaches the top of the list they must provide proof of income and pass the criminal background check (drug and violent crimes).
What counts as income? Not just earned income but also disability, Social Security, unemployment, etc. Program participants must be re-certified annually. Out of Cuyahoga County’s 15,000 participants, 50% have working income, around 5% have no income and the remaining recipients’ income is from disability, Social Security, etc.
If they are eligible, their income falls under the income limit (set by HUD) AND they pass the background check, they are issued a voucher for a unit. The size (number of bedrooms) of the unit is based on household composition; the amount of the voucher is based on the size of the unit needed. Program participants are generally required to pay 30% of their income towards the unit while, the remaining 70% is paid directly to the landlord from CMHA.
Maple Heights Affordability
Program participants can use this voucher to rent any unit within Cuyahoga County where the owner will accept their voucher. Participants have a choice of where they reside in Cuyahoga County, but some communities have limited “affordable” housing.
In the chart below, all the numbers are pulled from the 2010 Census data, except the number of units participating in the HCVP. The HCVP numbers are current as of March 31, 2014.
|E. Cleveland||Brook Park||Parma Hts||S. Euclid||Maple Hts||Shaker Hts||Garfield Hts|
|HCVP- % of total housing stock||579||5%||26||0%||83||1%||244||3%||694||6%||295||2%||608||5%|
|HCVP -% of rentals||11%||2%||2%||14%||28%||7%||19%|
Considering that HCVP units make up only 6% of the housing in Maple Heights, it is hard to hold the common opinion that our problems come from HCVP participants. If that was the case, the city would be “worse” than East Cleveland, who has only 5%.
Landlords who participate in the HCVP are still responsible for screening their applicants for suitability (good neighbor, will take care of the unit, etc). Whether or not utilities are included in rent is between the landlord and tenant. The rental unit is subject to yearly inspections by CMHA and must also meet all local building code and rental registration requirements, holding HCVP landlords doubly accountable.
If CMHA receives a “quality of life” complaint about a HCVP household they will first call the landlord. It is his or her duty to contact the household and let them know that they need to “be a good neighbor”.
Participants are required to report changes in household composition and income. Not doing so could put them in violation if the:
- New household member puts the household over the income limit
- New household member cannot pass the criminal background check
If you suspect a neighboring household is not adhering to program violations you can report by calling 216-431-1471 and CMHA will investigate. When recipients are found to not be adhering to program guidelines, their assistance will be terminated. They may continue to stay in the unit and pay the full amount of rent if the landlord is agreeable.
I hope that this article has broadened your understanding of the HCVP. Participants are not criminals, but in fact have passed a criminal background check for drugs and violent crimes. In many cases they might be a single mom with 3 kids or an elderly widow who is trying to live off of her social security check. Landlords have a choice (in fact they don’t even have to accept HCV) in whom they rent their units to and the units must be inspected yearly by both the city and CMHA.