Woman's rental search meets Section 8 stigma - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Woman's rental search meets Section 8 stigma

Amber Alexander's a single mother of four. She works to pay the bills, but needs Section 8 rental assistance to keep a roof over their heads.

"If I didn't have it we would be in a bad situation or we would be homeless," she said.

The three-bedroom duplex she rents in Pacific Palisades is in foreclosure. Any day now she expects a 90-day notice to move out. She scours rental ads and Craigslist but hasn't found a landlord willing to accept her Section 8 voucher. She has been rejected time and again.

"They say, 'We do not take Section 8. Section 8 not accepted. No Section 8. Don't call for Section 8,'" she said.

Alexander and many other Section 8 holders in need of affordable rentals are casualties of a tight rental market, where landlords can pick and choose. But some hold the keys with an iron fist.

"I have been told the military pays more for rent, so they would rather rent to the military," she said. "If you're on Section 8, they're saying, 'You're going to damage our house!' And it's not true. Not everyone is like that."

Catholic Charities helps Section 8 holders find housing. Rona Fukumoto oversees the Housing Assistance and Referral Program. She said her agency educates landlords.

"Some landlords are just afraid of what might happen. They've heard stories. But I can say that with our families, and we serve about 300 a year, we haven't a whole lot of horror stories. Many more success stories than horror stories," she said.

Landlords who do accept Section 8 tenants face extra inspections, and rental applications can take two months to approve. Landlords who take HUD's class on Section 8 renting may qualify for a tax credit on their mortgage.

Fukumoto advises Section 8 renters searching for rentals not to give up.

"You need to sell yourself to the landlord," she said. "They need to like you and trust you."

Alexander, 29, is a cancer survivor. She was on the waiting list nine years before her Section 8 voucher came through. She wants to find a rental in Aiea or Pearl City so her kids can stay at their schools. That's the best case scenario. Then there's the worst.

"Worst comes to worse it's losing the voucher," she said. "Then where do we go? What do we do?"

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