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‘Give ’em a chance’: Landlords explain why families with vouchers shouldn’t be turned away 

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‘Give ’em a chance’: Landlords explain why families with vouchers shouldn’t be turned away 

Jun 12, 2024 | 4:33 am ET
By Kelm Lear
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‘Give ’em a chance’: Landlords explain why families with vouchers shouldn’t be turned away 
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Landlords who have worked with housing voucher recipients say they've had good experiences with the program, writes our columnist. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Ailsa Hayes has been property manager at Country Meadows Residences since 2022. Before she took on her current position, the residential complex already accepted prospective tenants who utilized housing choice vouchers to find rentals in the private market. As the former director of the HCV program in Talladega, Alabama — a town of about 15,000 residents located one hour east of Birmingham on Interstate 20 — Hayes was pleased to learn that Country Meadows was providing decent, safe, and sanitary housing to families in need. 

Housing denied

Income discrimination in Manhattan, Kansas, rentals.

Now acting as a landlord, Hayes has work experience with the voucher program in both the public and private sectors. Speaking from both perspectives, Hayes shared a positive review of the program. 

“I think it’s a good program,” she said. “We’re guaranteed our payment from the program, and if we have any problems we just reach out.” 

Hayes said when potential renters with vouchers apply at Country Meadows, she is able to conduct the standard screening process applied to all residents. Additionally, all of her current HCV tenants are paying the full market-value rent for their units.

“We’ve been pretty blessed with all of our rent collection with everyone,” she said. 

When asked why other landlords should participate in the HCV program, Hayes emphasized the importance of helping neighbors in need. 

“Having a voucher doesn’t make them a good resident or a bad resident,” she said. “… The voucher program is like giving out a helping hand to someone in need, to get them to a point where they can do it on their own.” 

Nan Malott is property manager at Birchwood Villas, which is owned by Wilhoit Properties out of Springfield, Missouri. Birchwood Villas is a senior residential complex, housing those over age 55. Malott also manages a second property for Wilhoit in Manhattan. Voucher tenants are welcome at both locations. 

As the property manager for senior living apartments, Malott is grateful for how the HCV program helps her tenants find good homes. 

“I am a firm believer in the housing voucher program because I see so many people that wouldn’t be able to afford anywhere to live, let alone a decent one, without the housing vouchers,” Malott said. “Lots of older folks that have limited income couldn’t afford (housing) on their own.”

Malott also addressed the stigma surrounding HCV tenants. 

“For the most part, the people with housing vouchers are better (tenants) than the people without vouchers,” she said. “They’re aware they receive assistance, they’re appreciative of it, and want to make sure they don’t lose their voucher.” 

Malott is also thankful for the quality of service she receives from the Manhattan Housing Authority, such as timely communication and rental payments from the agency’s HCV director and the courteous manner in which the inspector evaluates units occupied by voucher tenants. 

Jon Harper is co-owner of Live Manhappiness, LLC, managing 11 units. He’s been leasing to voucher tenants for about two years. His company follows a community-centered approach to providing adequate housing to anyone, which Harper attributes to his humble upbringing. 

“My mom worked her butt off to have what we had,” Harper said. “It pissed me off when things went bad and they (management) wouldn’t come fix anything, and I wanted to be a part of changing that.” 

Like Malott, Harper is impressed with the local housing authority’s 24-hour response time to questions or problems and the knowledgeable inspection reports shared with him. 

Speaking from first-hand experience, Harper recognized that not all voucher holders are good tenants. But he noted that’s the risk taken by landlords with any potential tenant, adding that a negative experience with one HCV household shouldn’t ruin another voucher holder’s opportunity to lease. 

Ultimately, Harper said participating in the program is an effective way for landlords to give low-income families in their community a way to find the right home. 

“Everyone needs housing. There are different pockets that everyone is going to fit in. If you have apartments that are sitting empty, give these folks a chance. You don’t have to accept everyone that comes your way. You’re still allowed to do your own vetting process. There’s no use in letting housing sit empty and letting some people go without housing. Give ’em a chance.”

Landlords and property managers interested in making units available to families with vouchers can reference the “A Landlord’s Guide to Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers,” produced by the Manhattan Housing Authority.

Kelm Lear is an intern at the Manhattan Housing Authority. He is in the master’s of public administration program at Kansas State University. Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.