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Upcoming City Law To Give Low-Income San Diegans More Housing Opportunities

March 27, 2019 1:43 p.m.

GUEST: Tarryn Mento, Speak City Heights reporter, KPBS news.

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Related Story: Upcoming City Law To Give Low-Income San Diegans More Housing Opportunities


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The federal section eight program helps low income families afford a home, but the wait to get one in San Diego is 10 years long and landlords don't have to accept them. But KPBS reporter Taryn Mento says a new city ordinance in San Diego is giving some families hope.

Speaker 2: 00:19 This is my home. Welcome Mike. Welcome to my home. Jack Alina Hernandez. Romero shows off her two bedroom apartment in north park. The wide front room is covered in a Warren brown carpet, but it's well lit by the sun coming through. The vertical blinds is roomy as to us. It is us, includes her mom and husband and this week her son and two grandkids are visiting from out of town. You want grandma to read the apartment, fixed her family just fine, but the $1,500 a month rent is tough on her budget. She says disability insurance for her mom and husband brings in less than $2,000 a month. I go, God, this is what we have for the rent. This is what we have left over for food. This is what we have for bills. This is it. So it was a life changing moment when she learns she'd received a rental voucher of more than $600 a month, October 19th of 2018 yes.

Speaker 2: 01:13 Hernandez Ramiro also had a voucher back in 2006 but gave it up because her complex heady no voucher policy that's changing under a new city law. Our city leaders, uh, decided to enact an ordinance that would, uh, help remove some of the barriers to housing. That's Rosalina Spencer with the Legal Aid Society of San Diego. The fair housing attorney is referring to a new ordinance that bars landlords from denying applicants just because they use rental subsidies. Council woman, Georgia at Gomes proposed it in July to help low income tenants find housing in high opportunity areas and avoid homelessness. All we are asking is that landlords allow section e to apply and to evaluate them. And the same way as any other applicant, the law takes effect later this year, but Hernandez Ramiro needed help now and legal aid, Spencer stepped in. She's all, maybe they don't know the law. Maybe they do not. They do not know it.

Speaker 2: 02:14 And let's see, Spencer says legal aid has educational sessions to bring landlords up to speed. The temperature with the landlords is one, being unaware of this ordinance being passed, being aware that they're no longer allowed to exclude a certain type of tenant from their applicant pool. Um, and I think there might be a little bit of resistance. Opponents say voucher programs mean more regulations for property owners including inspections. The local housing authority says it's streamlining hurdles and has a landlord advisory committee still, Spencer says some are complying early, like the complex were Hernandez Ramiro lives. And then finally she told me they'll work with you and I'm all my bathroom. And as you saw my bathroom and my bathroom, I got on my knees

Speaker 3: 03:05 and I ask God, thank you, thank you very much. And I said, bless them. What's the for helping us bless them for wanting to work with this

Speaker 2: 03:16 management company are a Snyder told KPBS all of it's San Diego Properties will follow the law even before it's mandatory, but her name is Ramiro, doesn't have the voucher just yet. And inspection found a few things that need fixing. One of the things that they requested was, um, weatherstripping plus a new rug and safety upgrades to the exterior railing. The new carpet was scheduled, but Ra Snyder says it's still figuring out the railing. A company rep says it wasn't aware that would delay the voucher, but the housing commission says safety matters must first be addressed. In the meantime, Hernandez Romero says she is praying that other landlords also give voucher recipients a chance. God will soften their hearts and I'm so, I'm certainly glad that the are a Schneider was their hearts were softened and that they allowed us to say, okay, we'll work with you. What works? So I'm very good. She plans to use the monthly savings to buy a reliable car. The 1994 vehicle that was donated to her can't make the long drive to visit her grandkids.

Speaker 1: 04:27 Joining me is KPBS reporter Taryn Manto. Taryn, welcome. Thanks Maureen. When we reported on the new city ordinance last year, the main consideration was that landlords could no longer advertise no. Section eight it said landlords could no longer exclude section eight renters from applying, but it didn't force landlords to accept them. Is that still how the ordinance stands?

Speaker 2: 04:50 Right, so the law forbids landlords from using a person's source of income as a reason not to house them. So yes, landlords must review voucher recipients as applicants just like anybody else before they could indicate an ads that they don't accept section eight vouchers. They have like a blanket ban, but now they have to consider them, you know, just like anybody else. And I mean they also can't lie and Intel an interested voucher recipient that the property's not available anymore. But the problem there is going to be proving that.

Speaker 1: 05:18 Right. How is it different though in cases like Mrs. Hernandez Romero where the renter already lives in the building when they are granted section eight subsidies,

Speaker 2: 05:28 her specific situation, the property manager actually didn't have to accept her voucher because the law isn't officially in effect. That happens in August and then yes, landlords would have to accept vouchers from tenants who already have a lease agreement. So you can't terminate an agreement with someone. Just because they received a voucher. And you also can't deny renewing an agreement just because they had a voucher. There's gotta be another reason. Maybe there are, we're not a good tenant, weren't paying their rent on time. It can't just be because you know your source of income. I don't like why would landlords have a problem accepting vouchers? I mean they are the same as money. Right? Well on the surface it seems like it's just another form of money and it's even guaranteed because with section eight it's the local housing authority that disburses the rent. But I spoke with Rick Snyder about this. His company are a Snyder properties is what is the company that manages the complex where Hernandez Ramiro lives, and he described it this way,

Speaker 4: 06:27 it is not just about the source of income, the burden associated with working with a federally mandated but locally administered housing program that adds a layer of complexity and burden to the process for a landlord. And it is for that reason that landlords in the past have elected not to use section eight because of some of the bad experiences that they've had.

Speaker 2: 07:00 So he explained to housing program may require a landlord offer a lease of a specific link such as a year when the landlord typically prefers, you know, month to month. Also, properties now have to have inspection. So when a landlord approves a tenant that uses a voucher, that person can't just move in the next day. The landlord has to wait until someone actually comes out to inspect it. If there's need for improvements, they have to fix those and then have the inspector come back out. So there are a couple of things. And to point out in the situation with Hernandez Romero, the inspection found that a railing did need a safety upgrade and the company could just do a quick fix on just her railing. But Snyder said to him, that didn't make sense. It would also look quite different. So now they're looking into upgrading all the railings in the place, which he said could be in oh about $9,000.

Speaker 2: 07:46 So his argument was one section eight voucher tenant is costing the complex thousands when a tenant not on a subsidy wouldn't have required that upgrade if the landlord had refused to make the upgrades, the housing commission asked for, would the Hernandez Ramiro family be denied their subsidy? I mean, that's a good question. I didn't specifically ask that, but the housing commission did say that, you know, it would speak with property managers to help make sure everything is addressed. Um, so it looks like the goal would be to work with landlords through problems, but the apartment, it does have to be up to, you know, federal housing safety and standards for section eight. How was the housing commission then working to streamline some of those requirements? So I talked to the housing commissions as Hussein, a valid dola about that. She's the senior vice president of rental assistance. Um, she says the commission has been working, you know, for years to reduce the time it takes to do an inspection. Now it's just a few business days. And after. The first one is, you know, housing authorities require annual inspections, but San Diego Housing Commission only requires them every two years. So it kind of cuts down a little bit on that. And this month they began pre inspections. So landlords interested in renting to a recipients can get approved about 60 days out before they even identify a tenant. She explained the change this way,

Speaker 4: 09:02 oh for the landlord would have have to complete to identify a tenant, fill out some paperwork and then we would go out and inspect the units. So a pre inspection process allows us to expedite that process a lot quicker and move their families in [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 09:19 and the commission also meets with a source of income landlord advisory committee to to find more ways to improve. They started that back in October. Do you think it's going to take legal aid to get people into some of these properties? Especially in this situation we're in now where the actual law doesn't kick in until this is summertime. Right. So there was a one year grace period because it was approved back in July to allow landlords to get up to speed and legal aid is responsible for, you know, informing all the landlords about this. Um, but we have fair housing cases all the time now based on all the other protected classes that there are out there. It's kind of difficult sometimes if someone was to be denied based on their source of income, unless the landlord outright says no section eight on their advertisement or says, I don't want to accept you because of the source of cause you're paying with a voucher, it's going to be difficult to prove why you were denied in somebody else was approved. So that's going to be the challenge. They're probably going to have to be looking at to see how do these cases come forward because you can take a violator to court. And so we'll have to keep an eye on how that plays out. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter Taryn Manto. Taryn, thanks. Thank you.

Speaker 5: 10:30 Okay.