Los Angeles Landlords Should Accept Housing Vouchers

Los Angeles landlords, for rent sign on apartment

If people experiencing homelessness and the government have a role to play in solving our unhoused crisis, what makes Los Angeles landlords think they are exempt?

It used to be no evictions, first and last month’s rent, stable income, a good reference or two and a decent credit score could get you in the door pretty much anywhere–today landlords expect you to come with an 850 credit score, offer your first born as collateral, make 3 times the rent, pay first, last, a deposit, a cleaning fee, AND be prepared to offer more money than they are asking for.

When I was in the rental market back in 2021, I remember seeing people offering to pay above what the landlord was asking in an effort to be chosen. I can only imagine what’s happening at these open houses now. Which begs the questions, are we renting or buying?

But now, even if you get past all of that, including the ridiculously high (and suspect) credit check fees for every adult that applicants must pay–even if they aren’t accepted and most aren’t–another problem has risen to crisis proportions. Landlords don’t want to rent to people participating in housing voucher programs.

Back in the Day

Now, I can remember a time when landlords preferred guaranteed rent over everything else.

I can also remember looking for an apartment in the early 2000s and the price being different for someone paying by cash, check, or money order versus someone paying with a Section 8 voucher. The rent was cheaper if you were paying yourself and it was higher–whatever the limit of the voucher was–if you were paying with government assisted funds.

Some of y’all have been in Los Angeles long enough to remember that too.

But now it seems the appeal of guaranteed rent isn’t enough. Landlords can get more for rent than these programs are offering to pay.

A one-bedroom voucher could cover up to $2,400 a month, but what’s $2,400 when you can get $3,000 or more?

The Definition of Insanity

I know so many people in Los Angeles who have vouchers from Section 8 or other housing programs who can’t find a place to rent because they aren’t being accepted and they aren’t being accepted because landlords can get more in rent than the vouchers are offering, there’s still a stigma surrounding people on these programs, and the government isn’t always paying out the vouchers in a timely manner.

Last week, Mayor Karen Bass asked landlords in Los Angeles to rent to individuals and families who have experienced homelessness and are participating in the Homeless Incentive Program, which offers incentives to landlords who rent their units to homeless individuals. The incentives are paid rent, security deposit assistance and holding fees, move-in assistance, and damage mitigation.

It’s a damn shame when you have to beg landlords to rent to people with housing vouchers.

It's Guaranteed Rent! A No Brainer

Look, we all have a role in playing to get folks housed. The folks who need housing, the government assisting with the funding for that housing, and yes–the landlords who have that housing. Landlords are not exempt.

Perhaps the property taxes should be higher for landlords with rental property who don’t participate in these programs. Maybe lawmakers need to look into mandating that landlords–even small mom and pop landlords–with over a certain amount of rental units be required to make a fixed percentage available to those with housing vouchers.

Sure, there are challenges in dealing with these programs. It’s the government, duh. I know that landlords fear increased wear and tear on their properties or perceive additional administrative burdens. But what’s a bit more paperwork compared to the difference you could make in someone’s life and our city by having less people living on the streets and in motels and more people in permanent housing? Plus, many housing authorities provide support to landlords, making the process as smooth as possible.

Let’s not act like people with great credit who pay rent without government assistance don’t tear up apartments and get evicted.

And no–this isn’t an opportunity for self-righteous homeowners to offer their tired repeated unsolicited comment of, “You should have bought when you had the chance.” Everyone’s background and opportunities in life are different. If you were able to buy a home, good for you. Gold star. But miss me with the sanctimony. Not everyone had the same opportunities.

Play Your Role

So, landlords, why not consider stepping into the role of the unexpected hero? Programs like the Homeless Incentive Program are more than just a government initiative, they are a lifeline for those in need. It’s a way to ensure stable income while making a real, tangible difference in our city.

Think of it as an opportunity to change the narrative. Instead of being the villain in someone’s housing horror story, you could be the knight in shining armor—or at least the reasonable human being who decided to do something good with their property.

Let’s flip the script. Let’s make housing more accessible. And let’s give everyone a chance to have a place they can truly call home. After all, being a landlord doesn’t have to be synonymous with greed. It can also mean being part of a meaningful solution.

So, what’s it going to be? Another rent increase and eviction notice, or a step toward housing humanity? The choice is yours.

Doing the right thing is often a secondary consideration. When it comes to housing–it shouldn’t be.