Section 8 vouchers expiring before tenants can find homes in expensive rental market

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- As rental prices continue to soar in North Carolina, affordable rentals are few and far between.

The lack of low-cost housing makes it especially hard for people with Housing Choice vouchers--also known as Section 8--to find a place to call home, and some are even losing their opportunity to use the program.

Raleigh resident Letrice Cox said she's had a tough go during the past six months-spending more than $1,000 just on application fees for places to accept her Section 8 voucher.

"It's hard," Cox said. "I've spent all my money I had saved."

Cox's voucher is for $1,177 for an apartment for her and her kids. That's just about $50 shy of last year's fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment-which the Raleigh Housing Authority uses to calculate its grants to awardees.

However, according to the real estate website, the average rent for a two bedroom apartment in the Triangle is about $1,600 per month, $400 more than the voucher. And Cox said additional requirements make finding an apartment nearly impossible.

"It's hard because you've got to make four times the rent," Cox said. "You know, everybody don't make four times the rate, especially if you're a single parent."

The Raleigh Housing Authority has extended her voucher three times to help her buy more time.

"They only give you 30 days," Cox said. "So after the 30 days is up after the three is over, they take it."

Cox said since she couldn't find a landlord to accept her Section 8 voucher, she and her kids have nowhere to go.

Sherri Harris is facing a similar situation.

"I'm trying everything--apartments, condos, everything. Sublease, everything," Harris said. "I can't, no one will bite."

Harris spent years on the waiting list before finally getting her voucher, but found it's not nearly enough to cover the cost of rent in Raleigh.

"I can't find anything under $1,400, period," Harris said. "I mean a two bedroom, one bath, and it was built in 1966."

According to both Durham Housing Authority and Raleigh Housing Authority, housing choice tenants pay 30% of their monthly income toward rent, with at least $50 going to rent and utilities.

Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords are not required to accept Housing Choice Vouchers. While landlords cannot discriminate based on gender, race or ability, they can screen for income, rent history, lease compliance and criminal background.

Troubleshooter takeaways:

Before paying application fees...
  • Ask if the landlord/property management company accepts Section 8 vouchers
  • Ask how much past rental history affects chances of approval
  • Ask how many people have already applied for the rental unit.
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