Meet the Family Services Worker Who Can't Find a Place for Her Family to Live

Seattle's Antidiscrimination Laws Are Supposed to Protect People Like Demetria Roundtree. But Are They Working?


Here is what people need to understand about Section 8 vouchers and finding a place to live (apparently Ms Roundtree too), Landlords can elect to place their home in the Section 8 program or not. If the house is not in the program, the landlord does not need to entertain any interest in renting it to the person with the voucher. Section 8 has a very bad reputation with many landlords as the tenants often show a lack of respect for the home they occupy, as they are not paying the rent, the Section 8 administrative body is. Plus, the landlord must form a business relationship with the Section 8 administrative body. Always a messy thing. The solution is very very simple, but it requires the State get out of the nannyish monitoring business. Give Ms. Roundtree the money needed (not a voucher) to find a house for rent, don't give it to the landlord when the landlord places the house in the program and then rents to Ms. Roundtree. With cash in hand, Ms. Roundtree is now free to compete with everyone else looking for a place to rent. She will be held to the same standards of conduct as others. Finding affordable housing is hard for everyone, even harder for those the Section 8 program treats as dumb people who can't find their own place to rent nor handle the money.
I was in the same situation exactly, even down to income and career field, but I didn't have a voucher. I was priced out of my neighborhood in 2007 after the apartment I lived in was renovated into condos. I moved to a far flung neighborhood and lived there for 7 years. The lack of reliable public transportation and issues with our school moving made it impossible to continue on there. I moved back to my home state where I had never lived as an adult and, gosh, I miss Seattle terribly. But I don't regret leaving because it's possible to live above the poverty line where I am now, and I can give my kid a much more stable life.

I hope the tide turns in Seattle and Ms. Roundtree is able to attain what I couldn't. And if not, I hope she isn't afraid. Leaving can be the heartbreak before the new love.
We were considering placing a rental home we own on the section eight list. It is a nightmare. Also, the inspection requirements are completely absurd. For example, a crack on a plastic light switch cover will need replacing, but you are free to rip out carpets and just leave the plywood subfloor. A broken kitchen cabinet hinge will be a failure, but ripping off all the doors is fine. There is a guy who wrote a whole book about being a profitable section 8 landlord, and most of it is about the things you can take out of an apartment that will reduce the chances of damage and maintenance. It is a system with bad incentives for both sides.
@2 absolute truth. Sort of like hanging on to a relationship that isn't working. Better to end it, move on and find something better.
Kennesaw Mountain, thank you for your comment. I think it is important for tenants to understand the issues that landlords face; hopefully with the housing levy, we can wager incentives that benefit landlords so that tenants benefit.
Perhaps if the agency issuing the vouchers would indemnify the tenants; that is cover any damages the tenants might do to a residence. I think it could be reasonably determined if any excessive damage was deliberate. Those tenants that caused a lot of damage might then find their future choices in public housing much more limited.
Look, taxes are taxes. Whether a landlord pays property taxes or income taxes it still comes from the same source, their wallet. Lowering one and introducing another has no effect. Look at our city, despite all this new money is giving us the city is cash strapped.