Dallas city officials hope to solve unused housing vouchers problem

- Dallas city officials hope to solve unused housing vouchers problem

The city of Dallas is working to solve the problem of $8 million in federal vouchers for housing going unused.

Alicia Lewis is one of 1,100 people who received section 8 vouchers but couldn’t find landlords to take them in the 90-day expiration date.

“They were all full. Their waiting lists were over a year long,” she explained. “You just give up and feel like you’ll be stuck here forever.”

Lewis was hoping to get out of public housing and into private housing.

Last summer the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Dallas built too much low-income housing in poor areas, feeding the cycle of poverty.

Councilman Philip Kingston paraphrased the ruling with this stark opinion.

"The supreme court, using thousands and thousands of words basically said we've all got to live together,” he explained. “That's going to be a real challenge for this city. People did not move into the neighborhoods they live in to live with people who don't look like them."

To comply with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city is now working on its first housing policy ever. The goal is to create affordable housing in mixed-income areas. One component the city will vote on next week is to prohibit landlords from discriminating against people like Lewis because they have vouchers.

But the state passed a law supporting landlord rights that could make a Dallas non-discrimination ordinance illegal. Kingston believes the city would ultimately prevail in court.

“The state is not able to make non-discrimination illegal,” he said.

Other city leaders said that many landlords don't want to take vouchers because the government requires them to jump through so many hoops. And with rent costs rising, there are plenty of private market renters.

Kingston says the city needs to offer small cash incentives for landlords to accept vouchers.

“If it's a small incentive for 1,000 families to know what attendance zone their kids will be in next year,” he said. “Think what you would pay for that outcome."

Where the money for the incentives would come from is a matter for future discussions.

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