In summary

On this episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast,” CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias and the Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon sit down with Jack Lahey, homeless services coordinator in San Luis Obispo, to discuss the mixed results of a federal rental assistance program.

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Section 8 vouchers are great — as long as you can find a landlord who will rent to you.

Nicknamed after Section 8 of the federal Housing Act, the Housing Choice Voucher program allows low-income tenants to pay only 30% of their income toward rent and utilities while Uncle Sam shoulders the rest.

An emergency set of vouchers to combat housing insecurity during the pandemic tried to tackle the all-too-common problem of landlord discrimination by sweetening the deal through generous signing bonuses and heftier security deposits. So far, the results are mixed, but promising.

In just more than a year, California has used about a third of the 17,000 new vouchers it received from the feds, worth more than $400 million. Smaller cities, like San Luis Obispo, turned nearly all of their vouchers into leases — while other cities with similarly hot housing markets, like Los Angeles, still have more than 3,000 families waiting to find a home.

To break down why voucher holders are faring far better in some California housing markets than others, CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias and the Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon sit down with Jack Lahey, homeless services director at Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo, who previously worked in homeless services in Los Angeles.

Lahey explains why landlord incentives work — but enforcement of anti-discrimination laws has to follow.

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Manuela is the housing reporter for CalMatters. Her stories focus on the political dynamics and economic and racial inequities that have contributed to the housing crisis in California and its potential...