The Long Road Home: Navigating the Rental Market as a Voucher Holder

Soon after she graduated in 2008, Tasha found herself houseless as a result of a falling out with her family. A few years after applying for a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, she was filled with excitement when she finally received the news she had been waiting for in February of 2021.

What was supposed to be a big step toward stable housing quickly became a nightmare.

After many months of searching for housing every day, Tasha was still unable to find a place to live. Big bold letters reading, “NO SECTION 8” filled countless rental ads. Despite filling out many rental applications, Tasha never got an interview.

Although Tasha’s housing voucher would provide a landlord with guaranteed rental income each month, she continually faced rejection based on her use of a housing voucher. This type of practice is called source of income discrimination, and is often based on stereotypes. Like many other prospective renters, Tasha has heard the argument that all voucher holders are the same: that they don’t make good tenants, and that they destroy things.

“We’re not all the same and everybody needs a chance,” she says. “I actually like to take care of things and make it last forever…I can follow my rules, they just didn’t give us a chance first. Just everywhere is just a no.”

While the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many of the problems facing people experiencing homelessness and housing instability, the temporary waivers offered to Section 8 participants were critical. Tasha stated that if it weren’t for the extension provided due to the pandemic, she would have lost her voucher before she was able to find somewhere to live.

For Tasha, the experience of finally getting a housing voucher, only to be followed by an endless stream of dead ends, has been very frustrating. The constant rejections and judgment can leave voucher holders stressed and disheartened.

“It makes you want to give up,” Tasha says of her housing search experiences. “It gets tiring, you know?”

Breaking down barriers and stereotypes about housing vouchers can help fight against discrimination and help voucher holders have equal access to housing. More landlords are needed to participate in these vital programs that provide access to stable housing for people like Tasha, while also supporting landlords with a stable source of rental income. Efforts such as these are extremely important and have the potential to end many people’s experiences with houselessness.

For more information about source of income discrimination and landlord engagement, visit http://homelessness.hawaii.gov/landlord-engagement/.

 

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the voucher holder.