I recently received a copy of a letter from an individual, whom I know, who after years of waiting received a rental assistance voucher from HAC. This was a godsend for him as he is disabled and cannot earn enough to afford all of the expenses of living including housing.
His letter enumerated his frustrations in finding a unit to rent with his voucher, which guarantees payment of each month’s rent. In his letter he told of finding dozens of units, which he saw over more than a six-month period, which were either of poor quality or with the property owner not willing to rent to him because of his voucher or for other reasons that they did not specify. What was different about his letter, than many others we have received, is the number of units he looked at and the fact that we know him as an intelligent and very presentable person.
Which brings me to my point: it is more difficult for our clients to find housing even when they have a voucher than it has ever been in our history. Bear in mind that a voucher has always been the solution in that it guarantees the property owner the rent which historically has been a very good thing in the minds of the thousands of landlords who have rented units to our clients.
The reason for the difficulty seems relatively clear. There are more people looking for units than there are rental units available. There are other theories as to why this is including that more landlords leave units vacant because they don’t need the income; there are more people with lower incomes than there used to be; there are more people looking for year round rentals than there used to be; there are more people for fewer units so landlords pick one out of twenty rather than one out of three thereby lowering the apparently less desirable tenants chances of getting the unit; there are fewer decent units than there used to be because of the aging of our housing stock; and that more landlords are refusing to rent to applicants who have a housing voucher.
At the new Village Green apartments in Hyannis, which recently rented up, the manager was for a time receiving over a hundred calls per day giving out more than 200 applications a week. To make matters worse, towns are making it impossible for people to live in motel rooms more than a short stay justifying their actions as concerns for public health. None of the towns banning living in motels have reached the state mandate that 10% of their housing stock be affordable. Clearly, kicking people out of a motel room with nowhere to go creates a more serious public health problem than living in the motel room in the first place.
The message to us at HAC is that we need to do more to educate those in need of affordable housing on subjects related to housing and income; we need to provide more help to people looking for places to rent; we need to provide case management to some after they have found and moved into a rental unit; and we need, and Cape Cod needs, to produce many more affordable rental units. We would like to do all of these things but the resources to accomplish any of them are in short supply.