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Section 8 Vouchers – A New Bill With Big Implications

A new, proposed California Senate bill will prohibit landlords from discriminating against those with Section 8 vouchers. In this article we’ll explain what the bill proposes and explore different perspectives of those who will be impacted by it.


What Is the Section 8 Voucher Program?


The Section 8 voucher program is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford housing in the private market. In Santa Cruz County, the Section 8 Voucher program is administered by the Housing Authority. After passing a health and safety inspection and all paperwork has been completed, tenant(s) with Section 8 Vouchers are able to move into a unit and will be responsible for ⅓ of the rent. The rest of the rent-payment will come from the Housing Authority, up to a certain limit.

You can read more about that process here.


What is CA Senate Bill 329?


Senate Bill (SB) 329 was proposed by Senator Holly J. Mitchell and could be voted on as early as next week (the week of July 1st) on the Assembly floor. The bill proposes to qualify the rent-payments that the housing authority issues to landlords as the Voucher holder’s “income”. This means that those with Section 8 Vouchers will be protected under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which prohibits discrimination against potential tenants based on source of income.

According to this summary of the bill, landlords would still be able to screen tenants for suitability; they simply would not be allowed to refuse a tenant solely on the basis that the tenant intends to use housing assistance to help pay their rent.


How SB 329 Will Impact Landlords


A common grievance against the Section 8 Voucher system is that the Housing Authority’s process of a home inspection and the processing of the Voucher can take time, delaying the tenant’s move in date. This means that Section 8 vouchers may increase vacancy-time on a unit and cost the landlord money. Additionally, some landlords have had a bad experience with either the Section 8 program, a tenant receiving housing assistance, or both. These kinds of experiences can lead to and perpetuate negative stereotypes about renting to Voucher holders.


How SB 329 Will Benefit Tenants


A quick scan of Santa Cruz rentals on Craigslist will demonstrate the issue that this bill is attempting to address: “No Section 8 Vouchers” can often be found in rental descriptions. This trend makes an already challenging housing market very difficult to navigate for those that have been given a section 8 vouchers. Some people wait for months to get a Section 8 Voucher, and have a limited period of time to find a rental once they receive one. Sometimes, not finding a rental may force that person or family onto the streets.


Where You Can Learn More


The Bill will be reviewed by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on July 10th, 2019. If it gets approved it will move on to the Assembly floor. If passed, it will have made it through the Senate and Assembly, and will go to the governor’s desk. The governor can then either veto or approve it. If you’d like to learn more about SB 329, including it’s current status, you can use this recourse.

If you’d like to voice your opinion to your representative, you can look them up and find their contact information here.

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