Podcast: How housing vouchers work (or don’t) in California

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Section 8 voucher holders have a rough go of it in California.

The vast majority of families eligible for the federal program — which provides a subsidy to lower-income households to make up the rent they can’t afford — don’t receive a voucher because there simply aren’t enough to go around.

And even if you’re lucky enough to get one, you may have a tough time convincing a landlord to accept it. One study found that 76% of Los Angeles landlords refused to accept housing vouchers, with landlords in higher-income neighborhoods less receptive than those in lower-income neighborhoods.

“I think that there’s bias,” state Sen. Holly Mitchell, Democrat from Los Angeles, who is carrying a bill in the Legislature to ban landlords from discriminating against Section 8 recipients. “People operate off of assumptions of who this person is because they are poor.”

Landlord groups who oppose the bill argue bureaucratic delays and lengthy inspection and approval processes from public housing authorities would make compliance with the law difficult. They also fear higher insurance rates.

On this episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast,” CalMatters’ Matt Levin and the Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon interview Mitchell about her bill and other pressing California housing issues. They also chat with researcher Martha Galvez of the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Institute about landlord grievances with the program and what can be done to improve it.

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