- Wichita, Kansas, is launching a new program to create incentives for landlords to lease apartments to people who receive federal rental assistance.
- Starting Jan. 1, the Wichita Housing Authority's Landlord Assistance Program will provide landlords who accept tenants receiving assistance with a host of incentives, including up to $1,000 in payments, up to $3,500 to cover the cost of damages to a unit, and two months of rent after a tenant is evicted.
- “The landlord incentive program helps reduce the likelihood of economically disadvantaged individuals or families becoming homeless due to not being able to find rentals that accept housing vouchers and encourages landlords to participate in the program by mitigating their risk,” said Sally Stang, Wichita’s housing and community services director, in an email.
Millions of people receive the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Housing Choice vouchers, also called Section 8 vouchers, which are rental subsidies based on income and family size that state and local agencies distribute. In most cases, federal law does not prevent landlords from rejecting those who receive vouchers.
A growing number of states and cities have adopted laws that ban discrimination against renters based on their source of income. And in October, the District of Columbia reached a historic $10 million settlement with three real estate companies operating in the city for allegedly discriminating against tenants who receive housing assistance, the largest civil penalty ever issued in a housing discrimination case, Bloomberg City Lab reported.
Cities have taken other steps to try and entice landlords to rent to voucher recipients. A pilot program in New York City, for instance, will provide landlords who rent to voucher recipients in high-cost neighborhoods with one month’s rent.
Wichita’s incentive program encourages landlords to rent to those receiving housing assistance by providing additional funds to mitigate “potential economic losses that might arise from damages or unfulfilled leases” when renting to those individuals, said Stang.
Landlords that rent to voucher holders for the first time through the program will receive a $1,000 bonus. Landlords that had previously been part of the program but stopped accepting new Section 8 tenants for six months or longer will receive $500 after they begin renting to voucher holders again. And landlords will receive $250 starting in January for each voucher-holding tenant they have above their baseline count as of Nov. 30.
The program will also cover damage or deductible expenses that remain after applying the security deposit up to $2,000 in a studio or one-bedroom unit and $3,500 in a home that is two bedrooms or larger. And it will provide landlords with up to two months of rent after a tenant leaves due to eviction, abandonment or other premature termination if they commit to leasing to another voucher recipient.
Stang stressed the need for the program. Over the last six months, city officials have seen an especially high number of landlords and housing complexes stop accepting Section 8 and Housing Choice Vouchers. In Wichita, about 800 individuals with vouchers are looking for a unit that will accept their rental assistance, Stang added.
While the housing market is softening a bit, the cost of housing in Wichita has increased substantially in recent years, a trend in many markets throughout the U.S. Housing vouchers can help people experiencing housing instability, however “it is often difficult to find rental properties willing to lease to persons or families with a history of homelessness,” Stang said.