Getting Past ‘No’: Housing Choice Voucher Holders’ Experiences with Discrimination and Search Costs

Martha Galvez, prepared for PRRAC, May 2010, available here

“The federal Section 8/Housing Choice Voucher Program subsidizes the market-rate rents of close to 2 million low-income households nationwide.  In many urban areas, voucher- assisted households tend to be concentrated in subsets of higher-poverty, distressed urban neighborhoods.  This project explores two factors commonly believed to contribute to these trends in the City of Seattle: landlord discrimination against voucher holders, and high search costs.  Interviews and focus groups with 31 successful voucher participants suggest that housing searches can be arduous, and that both discrimination and search costs can be significant obstacles to finding housing.  The combination of poor credit and inability to pay search costs can be particularly challenging for voucher holders to overcome.  Despite local source of income protections in the City of Seattle, half of the study participants experienced or perceived landlord discrimination because of their voucher status.  Voucher holders reported similar strategies to minimize search costs and find landlords willing to accept a voucher.”

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