Lest it be forgotten in our virus-obsessed state, April in Fair Housing Month. I have been on the Fair Housing Commission in Somerville for seven years. This year, our events were cancelled. There are two things that need to be said:
- Fair Housing and affordable housing are interrelated in our communities. That is why I write today about the expanded benefits of the Section 8 program. Rental rate are better for landlords, and there is a signing bonus for landlords and Realtors® who work with Section 8 tenants.
- The Realtor® Fair housing month poster is the equivalent of “all lives matter”.
Section 8 is a federally funded rental assistance program that pays private landlords the difference between what a low-income household can afford and the fair market rent.
Section 8 may refer to either the tenant-based Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program or the Project-based Rental Assistance (PBRA) program. In both programs, the tenant typically pays 30% of their monthly income for housing costs.
Good news 1:
The rental payment for Section 8 housing was recently raised to be more in line with current market rate rents in town.
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Good news 2:
The Office of Housing Stability in Somerville has been funded to support landlords and Realtors® who rent to Section 8 tenants. The program is called SomerVIP.
Landlords and Realtors® who rent a property to a section 8 tenant are eligible for a one-time per unit incentive.
Landlords can receive:
- $2000 for a 1 or 2 bedroom unit
- $2500 for a 3+ bedroom unit
- If no Realtor®, and additional $1,000 for a 1 or 2 bedroom unit or an additional $2,500 for a 3+ bedroom unit.
- A repair reimbursement for up to $500 to pass the Section 8 inspection.
Realtors® receive their regular rental fee, plus and extra $500 through this program.
Our story on why you should consider joining SomerVIP:
My husband and I spoke at a meeting early in March. It was held to explain and support this program. Here is the press on it.
Our very first tenants were a family using a Section 8 voucher. They had been there quite a while. After some fairly simple paperwork at Somerville Housing Authority, we were all set to go. The next month, our check was in our mailbox on the first of the month, from Somerville Housing. Our tenant handed us a check the same day. It is the most regular payment we have ever gotten, from any tenants, in the 24 years we have owned our two-family house.
When these tenants left, we rented at market rate, which was the same rate. It took only three months before one of the tenants bounced a check.
The thing about Section 8 is that it has built-in support for your tenants. The tenant pays 30 percent of their income for rent. If the tenant gets in financial trouble, the voucher program jumps in and adjusts their required payment to match their change in income. The housing authority covers what the tenant can’t, and the rent is paid.
With market rate, non-voucher tenants, anything can happen. And it does! We’ve had great tenants, but stuff happens!
- We had, as I said before, a tenant who didn’t know that it takes a few days for his paycheck to clear, so he bounced his rent check… four times.
- We had someone with a stipend for Boston University. Every September, his rent was late, while BU got their stipend program running again.
- We had a tenant who was a bartender. When she broke her foot, she was out of work for three weeks. It took her three months to catch up.
How many tenants have had their income disrupted due to Covid-19? If you are a landlord with Section 8 tenants, this will not create a disruption in your rental income.
This is a great deal for landlords. Realtors® benefit, too.