The Section 8 Voucher Trap

An in-depth look at the Section 8 voucher system's history and pitfalls.
Feature (NATIONAL)

E. Tammy Kim
February 18, 2016

Tags: Housing: Landlord-Tenant, Housing: Public


The structure of Section 8 was partly to blame. Federal voucher dollars flow through local agencies incentivized to get people housed as quickly as possible. It’s easiest to use vouchers in neglected areas, where landlords need tenants and neighbors are unlikely to be hostile toward low-income newcomers. In whiter, more affluent neighborhoods, rentals are in short supply and landlords often refuse to take Section 8. Historically, advocates say, HUD has done little to enforce anti-discrimination laws.

Giddins was represented by Jerry Levy, a Legal Aid attorney born and raised in a Jewish enclave of Brooklyn. Levy had gone into legal services determined to make a difference in the lives of the poor. In the 1970s and ’80s, he saw clients all over Westchester County, untangling welfare cases and helping families keep their food stamps. It was good, satisfying work, yet the wins didn’t last. His clients came back again and again. They couldn’t find work. They stayed sick. Their kids went to failing schools. It all went back to where they lived, he concluded.