ROCKFORD — An organization representing landlords across Illinois has concerns that more choices for residents in public housing could translate into less autonomy for landlords.
Illinois House Bill 2775 amends the state’s Homelessness Prevention Act by creating additional legal defenses for renters and protections against discrimination based on source of income, as well as preventing undue administrative burdens when applying for housing assistance.
Protected sources of income under the bill includes emergency housing assistance, social security, disability support and federal Section 8 housing vouchers.
According to the Illinois Rental Property Owners Association, the legislation would mandate that landlords participate in the Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly referred to as the Section 8 program.
Section 8 is a federal rental assistance program for low income individuals whereby monthly rent is determined by income. Participation in the program is currently voluntary for landlords.
“The legislation will have the effect of mandating that a property owner enter into a non-negotiable contract with a unit of government, regardless if the property owner is willing to do so,” said Paul Arena, director of legislative affairs at the Illinois Rental Property Owners Association. “It is unreasonable to accuse a property owner who declines to accept such non-negotiable terms as having violated a person’s human rights. If a government program is not gaining sufficient participation, the solution is to correct objectionable elements of the program. There are remedies other than forced participation.”
The bill also effectively eliminates the use of an income threshold to qualify tenants, Arena said.
Rockford landlord Mary Snyder has been active in the Section 8 program for years.
“The biggest problem we have with entitlement programs like food stamps and Section 8 is there’s no time limits and there’s no incentive for them (participants) to get off of it,” Snyder said. “I’ve had tenants turn down promotions because then they’d no longer qualify for the program.”
Snyder said forcing landlords to accept Housing Choice Vouchers from low-income tenants is unfair to landlords.
“It comes down to tenant accountability,” she said. “There’s some long term tenants and there are people who come and go quickly. You’ve got to get more landlords to participate but forcing them to do it is not the way.”
The bill passed the House last fall and is currently pending in the Illinois Senate.
Debate over the bill coincides with two local public housing agencies preparing to implement a program designed to increase the number and quality of affordable housing options for their tenants.
The Rockford Housing Authority and Northern Illinois Regional Affordable Community Housing, representing the Winnebago and Boone County Housing Authorities, have been designated “Moving to Work” agencies by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“With this new business model, we are able to provide incentives for our landlords to encourage them to participate in the Housing Choice Voucher program, thereby giving our residents greater access to areas of higher opportunities,” RHA Executive Director Laura Snyder said in a news release.
In addition to boosting the number of affordable housing options, the Moving To Work program strives to increase the number of public housing residents toward self-sufficiency while reducing the agency’s administrative costs.
“We are excited to see the future of RHA and the Rockford community through the Move to Work program,” Snyder said. “We cannot wait to start implementing the local goals that we have set in order to help the residents and the community.”
The vision for the expansion of the Moving to Work program is to improve the delivery of federally assisted housing and promote self-sufficiency for low-income families across the nation, according to NI ReACH Executive Director Alan Zais.
“The succinct way of saying it is the program gives you more flexibility,” Zais said. “You report your progress so HUD and Congress can see what might make sense to adopt for housing authorities nationwide.”
This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: IL bill would require Section 8 mandate. Why some landlords are unhappy