HGAR Panel Helps Debunk Section 8 Myths

John Jordan | April 2017

Marcus Lowell, director of property management, makes a point at HGAR’s “Common Myths About Section 8 Housing” program, part of the association’s Breakfast with Benefits series. Other panelists were, from left, Danny Rump, senior housing specialist, Westhab; Alicia Price-Blanks, rapid re-housing supervisor, Westhab; Ariana Calderon, program manager, education & investigation, WRO; and Marlene Zarfes, fair housing director,

WHITE PLAINS—Approximately 100 real estate professionals attended a program on April 4th at the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors’ offices in White Plains that provided answers to the sometimes complex and often-times confusing regulations surrounding Section 8 housing and Source of Income legislation.

The “Breakfast with Benefits” program entitled “Common Myths About Section 8 Housing” was presented by the HGAR Fair Housing and Cultural Diversity Committee, and featured a panel of experts from housing services organization Westchester Residential Opportunities, Inc. of White Plains and affordable housing developer and support services provider Westhab, Inc. of Yonkers. The informative program also included a lively question and answer session where HGAR members posed scenarios they have encountered with Section 8 clients and property owners that accept Section 8 tenant vouchers.

From left (seated) Marcus Lowell, Westhab; WRO’s Ariana Calderon and Marlene Zarfes; (standing) Alicia Price-Blanks, Westhab; HGAR President Dorothy Botsoe and Panel Moderator Gloria Welcome.

The panel, moderated by Gloria Welcome, chairperson of the HGAR Fair Housing and Cultural Diversity Committee, included: Danny Rump, senior housing specialist, Westhab; Alicia Price-Blanks, rapid re-housing supervisor, Westhab; Marcus Lowell, director of property management, Westhab; Ariana Calderon, program manager, education & investigation, WRO; and Marlene Zarfes, fair housing director, WRO.

WRO’s Calderon rattled off a list of some of the most common myths that fuel landlords’ reluctance to participate in accepting Section 8 housing vouchers to their properties.

“The most common myth that we hear from landlords for reasons why they don’t want to take Section 8 is that Section 8 tenants make terrible tenants,” Calderon said. “That is not true. I was doing a little research yesterday and there is no direct correlation between Section 8 tenants and the failure to comply with a lease more than any other voucher owner.”

She noted that the landlord has a “double layer of protection” whereby he or she can proceed with an eviction and/or report the lease violation to the local Section 8 office where the tenant can possibly lose the Section 8 voucher.

Another common myth is that a landlord has to accept everyone. Calderon noted that in addition to background screening conducted by the housing agency prior to the award of a Section 8 voucher, the landlord could also conduct its own criminal and financial background investigation of the Section 8 tenant applicant as long as the same probes are conducted for any prospective tenant.

Calderon said that another common myth is that Section 8 rent is not consistent. She said that approved Section 8 payments by the Department of Social Services are paid on-time. Section 8 tenants are responsible for one-third of the approved total rent payment based on their income.

She also informed the gathering that approval of a property to be eligible for Section 8 tenants is not onerous or time consuming unless the apartment “is a total wreck.”

The last most common myth Calderon said landlords have regarding Section 8 tenants is “My property will be destroyed.” She noted that the Section 8 tenants must abide by the terms of the lease and has the aforementioned double layer of protection where landlords can move to evict and can also file a complaint with the Department of Social Services that could result in the tenant losing Section 8 benefits. She also related that the landlord does collect a security deposit as protection, but stressed that there is no statistical correlation between Section 8 tenants damaging units in comparison to conventional tenants.

WRO’s Zarfes outlined provisions of Source of Income and Section 8 regulations, while Westhab’s Blanks and Rumps discussed their various projects and Section 8 participation in their affordable housing developments.

The program featured a lively question and answer session where Realtors posed a host of scenarios where they represent either Section 8 voucher holders searching for apartments or compliance issues relating to the specific properties.

Philip Weiden, government affairs director for HGAR, advised Realtors that when dealing with Section 8 or any possible regulatory matter, contact the local municipal government since some may have stronger housing civil rights laws than New York State or Westchester County have on their books. Realtors that have a question concerning compliance should contact Leon Cameron, director of legal services and professional standards administration, at HGAR at (914) 681-0833 or at leon.cameron@hgar.com.

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth