Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, speaks during the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans' annual conference at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in northwest D.C. on May 30. (Brigette White/The Washington Informer)
**FILE** Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (Brigette White/The Washington Informer)

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has announced a task force to encourage more landlords to participate in the Housing Choice Voucher program.

The HCV program is the nation’s largest rental subsidy program assisting more than two million low-income households each year. However, two new studies have found that most landlords do not accept voucher-holders and complain about the program’s administrative requirements and housing authorities which manage the program at the local level.

“These studies tell us that we have a lot of work to do to engage more landlords, so our Housing Choice Voucher Program can offer real choice to the families we serve,” Carson said. “We will be traveling the country to hear directly from landlords about how we can make this critical program more user-friendly.”

Carson established HUD’s new Landlord Task Force and announced several forums across the country to hear directly from landlords on ways to increase their participation in the HCV program.

Next month, HUD will release a new study of landlord voucher acceptance in five study sites: Philadelphia, Los Angeles, D.C., Fort Worth, Texas, and Newark, New Jersey.

The study, which was sponsored by HUD and conducted by the Urban Institute, is the first to use paired testing methods across multiple sites to examine landlord treatment of voucher recipients.

While landlord participation varies across the five study cities, researchers found voucher recipients are hard-pressed to find a landlord who will accept their vouchers, especially in higher opportunity neighborhoods.

In addition, landlords often “stand up” testers posing as voucher recipients and even deny rental requests once testers reveal their source of income.

Another study examined the role landlords and property managers play in housing low-income tenants, especially voucher recipients, in three urban rental markets — Baltimore, Cleveland and Dallas. Prepared by Johns Hopkins University, the study examined how these local markets influence a landlord’s decision on whether to participate in the HCV program.

The researchers found that, while many landlords liked the program’s reliable rent payments, the main reasons given for not participating in the HCV program were frustrations with required inspections and disappointment with how local housing authorities handle disputes with tenants.

HUD will begin its landlord engagement campaign on Sept. 20 in D.C. where officials will present findings of the two aforementioned studies.

Individual landlord forums are also planned for Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Salem, Oregon. After completing these forums, the task force will provide policy recommendations to Carson on programmatic changes to increase landlord participation in the HCV program.

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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