FAQs on Source of Income Protections in Housing
1. What is source of income (SOI)?
Source of income (SOI) refers to the origin of rent payment. It generally refers to payments towards rent from sources such as rental subsidies like Section 8 or VASH vouchers for veterans or assistance payments such as public assistance or SSI and SSD.
2. Can Section 8 recipients live wherever they want?
No. Section 8 recipients are allowed to only rent moderately-priced apartments that are within Fair Market Rents determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), meet quality standards and accept Section 8 as a payment. In Onondaga County, the 2016 Fair Market Rents for a 1 bedroom apartment is $637, 2 bedroom $809, 3 bedroom $1,060, and 4 bedroom $1,153. Currently in Onondaga County, even if the apartment is within Fair Market Rents and a Section 8 recipient meets all other requirements, a landlord could deny any acceptance of a Section 8 voucher.
3. Will property owners be required to accept all Section 8 recipients once an SOI law is implemented?
No. Property owners can still deny a Section 8 voucher recipient if they do not meet other determining criteria such as credit, rental history, or criminal record. A source of income law proposes all property owners should consider both Section 8 recipients and other non-assistance renters using the same criteria.
4. How many Section 8 voucher recipients in the Syracuse area are successful in finding housing? What are the implications for them and their families if they cannot find housing?
Finding adequate housing that even considers Section 8 recipients is difficult. Respondents to CNY Fair Housing’s survey of housing caseworkers identified “source of income” as the number one reason why they could not find housing for their clients. Based on a review of rental advertisements in the Syracuse area on Craigslist during a one-week period, out of 712 rental properties, almost 15% of all advertising stated non-acceptance of Section 8 or Public Assistance. According to the Syracuse Housing Authority, many tenants are unable to find housing within mandated time frames and are forced to seek multiple extensions placing the individual and their family at risk of losing their voucher.
Such discrimination against Section 8 and public assistance payments forces low-income families to concentrate in high poverty, low opportunity neighborhoods.
5. What are the implications of poverty concentration in Onondaga County?
Due to limited housing choices as a result of Section 8 discrimination, almost 70% of all Section 8 tenants in Onondaga County live in areas of low or very low housing and neighborhood opportunity. Within the City of Syracuse, Section 8 tenants are concentrated in the Northside, Westside, and Southside neighborhoods, all areas designated as racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty according to HUD definitions.
According to the a study by the Century Foundation, Syracuse was ranked first nationally in poverty concentration among blacks and Hispanics. More than 65 percent of blacks and 62 percent of Hispanics live in high-poverty areas.
High levels of poverty concentration diminishes economic, educational, and social opportunities in these neighborhoods in the city. In an analysis of the opportunity gap for people based on race, Syracuse scored an “F” and ranked 97th out of 100 metro areas for opportunity for blacks. Syracuse also scored an “F” and ranked 92nd out of 100 metro areas for opportunity for Hispanics. 38 percent of blacks and 30 percent of Hispanics in Onondaga County live in low economic opportunity areas.
6. Are SOI laws effective? Do they actually provide more favorable outcomes for Section 8 recipients?
Prior to Washington, D.C.’s passing of a source of income law in 2006, the Equal Rights Center found that 61% of Section 8 voucher recipients in the Washington, D.C. were subjected to housing discrimination. Follow-up studies, after the law passed, in 2010 and 2013 revealed the discrimination of Section 8 voucher recipients decreased to 45% and then 28% respectively.
According to Lance Freeman, a researcher at Columbia University, Section 8 recipients who lived in SOI law jurisdictions lived in neighborhoods with less poverty and greater diversity than Section 8 recipients who lived in jurisdictions without SOI laws. In jurisdictions with SOI laws and adjacent jurisdictions without SOI laws, he also found that after a jurisdiction passed a SOI law, they on average saw a nearly 11% increase in voucher utilization rates, meaning less people had to return their vouchers because they were unable to find housing.
7. What are the benefits of accepting Section 8 recipients?
1. By considering Section 8 tenants, landlords expand their pool of potential tenants and increase their chances of achieving occupancy and a consistent tenant base.
2. Landlords who consider Section 8 tenants can post their listings on additional advertising channels.
3. Contrary to popular belief, all applicants for Section 8 are screened for a criminal record by their local housing authority before they could be offered a voucher. Applicants cannot receive a voucher if they have been evicted due to a drug possession charge in the last three years.
4. All Section 8 housing receives free professional inspections.