Unraveling the mystery of 500 unused Dallas Section 8 vouchers

West Dallas public housingThe Dallas Morning News ran a story by Kim Horner on June 23 about 500 Section 8 vouchers that have gone unused.  Since the Dallas Housing Authority (DHA) has more than 8,000 families on the waiting list and closed the waiting list for new applications four years ago I wondered what on earth was going on.

Like most housing stories the facts behind this story are complex.

Kim Horner reports that the 500 Section 8 vouchers are what is left over from a pool of 3,205 that were set aside as part of the landmark Dallas Housing Authority desegregation lawsuit.  I don’t have room to go into the details of the lawsuit here. The short version is that when the federal court ordered DHA to tear down a bunch of public housing in West Dallas the housing authority was ordered to replace the housing with new public housing in North Dallas neighborhoods that were higher income, virtually all white communities.  Then DHA Director Alfonso Jackson (later HUD Secretary under President Bush) hit a brick wall of neighborhood opposition to the building public housing in North Dallas from white homeowners associations.  Only one modest project got built after years of lawsuits between homeowners and DHA.  Section 8 vouchers were a way to let tenants find housing in private apartments in these North Dallas neighborhoods.

So the first thing to be clear about is that these vouchers are part of a court ordered remedy to the discrimination that was suffered by African-American households from the decades of substandard housing and segregation endured at the hands of the DHA.  They are not just a general pool of unused vouchers.

But the DMN story reported…

So why does it also have 500 special rent vouchers going unused?

DHA boss Ann Lott says some on the list have tried to use the vouchers – which are reserved for blacks willing to move to predominantly white areas – but couldn’t find landlords to accept them. Some families have bad credit or poor rental histories.

Others on the list have declined the vouchers, telling DHA they don’t want to move far from relatives and churches. And families without cars struggle with the lack of public transportation in some suburbs.

So we have two explanations for why the vouchers are sitting around unused:

  1. the tenants can’t find landlords to accept them; and
  2. some on the waiting list don’t want to move to North Dallas.

The first excuse is valid to a degree.  This is problem known in the affordable housing world as the “turn back ratio”.  Because in Texas landlords may legally discriminate against a tenant simply because they have a Section 8 voucher many do so.  Especially if they really want a legal way of keeping minority families and families with young children out of their apartments.  If you want to see how this plays out on a map check out the Austin Housing Segregation report posted on this blog on June 30.  Texas needs a law outlawing discrimination against Section 8 voucher holders.

I say this excuse is valid to a degree because DHA should have been hustling to help tenants find landlords willing to rent to them in desegregated neighborhoods and not leaving the voucher holders to strike out on their own.

The second excuse, that some folks on the waiting list don’t want to live in North Dallas, is completely disingenuous. Of course there are folks who don’t want to live in North Dallas.  But there are 8,000 families on the waiting list.  You cannot tell me it would be very hard to find 500 out of the 8.000 who would take advantage of this opportunity if the DHA put some effort into notifying folks and into developing and publicizing to the tenants a list of properties that would lease to them.  Nicer, newer apartments, safer communities, better schools, more public amenities along with a permanent rent fixed at no more than 33 percent of your income — of course there are 500 low-income, African-American Dallas families who would jump at the opportunity.

The real problem here is that DHA has been sitting on the vouchers for too long without advertising or recruiting eligible families to use them.  DHA has had these specific vouchers for almost two years and has just recently started going down the existing Section 8 waiting list to find African American families who want to move to desegregated neighborhoods. That’s the problem.

On June 26 Horner wrote a follow-up story reporting…

The Dallas Housing Authority board of commissioners plans to create a separate new waiting list for special rental assistance vouchers that can only be used by low-income black residents who move to predominately white neighborhoods. 

Now the DHA is waiting for HUD approval before proceeding.  Why this was not done two years ago is not explained.

It sounds a little like DHA would like to just wait out the clock, offer some excuses and pressure HUD to convert the vouchers for general use outside of the class of folks who should be getting help with desegregated housing opportunities under the Walker case.  That would be a grave injustice.

About John Henneberger

I started my commitment to housing justice for people and communities with low incomes in 1975 in Austin's Clarksville community. These years of working side-by-side with dedicated community leaders to find solutions to housing and community development challenges have taught me some things and I’m learning new things every day.

15 Responses to “Unraveling the mystery of 500 unused Dallas Section 8 vouchers”

  1. I agree with that. I actually have the Section 8 voucher now and have asked about the Walker Settlement to be told that they were no longer doing that. To then see now that they have 500 available. I feel cheated because I actually don’t mind staying in those area’s. And just recently I asked and was told because I ported over four years ago from Terrell,Tx and that I couldn’t get on the program. I feel there’s an excuse for every department with the Housing Authority. No returned call and so much of the wrong information given. And not too many of them hear what you’re saying. I have been totally disappointed with them.

  2. I totally agree with you a 100%. I am currently waiting to receive my walker’s settlement vouchers. I filled out my paper work on April 16, 2008 and was told that it would take 90 days until I got my briefing appt to receive my vouchers and here it is July 29 and still no appt. I call DHA and know one can help me they just make excuses. I also fill cheated because there are 500 vouchers unused so why haven’t I received mine yet. I am so disgusted with DHA, they need to do better than what they are doing.

  3. So what happens to all the individuals that arent choosen ???

  4. i was denyed cause they said i missed an appt , i never got a an appt letter, all i was waiting for a breifing letter and funding in 2008, after waiting for 5 years on the waiting list . i called and called to get the persons whom was my conselor at that time but he never return any of my phone calls, i am very unhappy

  5. This is not a suprise to me. DHA needs re-evaluating bad. They don’t care about the clients or people who are need of those vouchers. They are making a statement with having those vouchers sitting around like that. I agree 500 out of 8,000 come on now. My mother is disabled, I’m sure she’ll move anywhere. She receives disabilty which all goes on her rent, She can’t afford to be choicey.

  6. Yes, something needs to be done with DHA. When you call they give you misleading info. There web-site tells you one thing and they tell you another. I am also on the Walker waiting list I called they say I’m the first on the list in January but now it’s the end of August and I’m still waiting. I would look to move out to better my kids education and life. They should go throught the list and see who would like to move. If they happen to call me I wouldn’t tell them that i don’t want to move.

  7. helo my name is natqlie salzar delAN ITA WASSS GOODDDDD FIRE IT UP

  8. I have been on a run around. for sometime now. I have transferred from Dallas to Plano and back to Dallas, I was certified to participate in the family self suffieciency program when my files were transferred they lacked the family self sufficiency files. I have been inquiring about he the walker settlement voucher literally since 1998 to the present.

  9. I am on the walker program and let me tell you it is not at all what it seems.This is only for the people who need a 1,2 and 3 bed voucher.
    Yes we all would accept it if it’s the only option available. If you do get regular section 8 you might wont to stay with what you already got. You see the beginning it was great until they made a change in the program. So now as of 11/2009 they give you a voucher and you go to this website called gosection8.com and also look in newspaper’s just to find the homes for a 3 bedroom to be way over your amount. My friend has a four bed voucher on walker and she only gets $1,721. Once you take out utilities for her she is left with $1,413. My friend had no problem really finding a home. The homes for her cost $1,200 to $1,400. I’m like man the people with 4,5,and 6 bed walker vouchers don’t have it bad as 1,2 and 3 bed voucher holders. I get $1,445 for a 3 bedroom walker voucher so if I wont a house you subtract utilities of $256. So now that leaves you with $1,189 to work with. Dallas housing is no longer going over the amount as of Nov 2009. Now here I am looking for a nice home and everybody just about is asking for $1,200 and more just to stay in these nice neighborhoods that we have to be in. You cant use your income tax are whatever money you might have to pay the extra cost housing wont pay because its called fraud. What I mean by that is if you see a home for $1,200 and your voucher will only pay $1,189 and its just $11.00 over you cant pay the difference with your deposit and have them agree to the $1,189 rent because its fraud and you will get kicked off the program. Housing will feel like its a side deal if you wont to take up the extra amount they wont pay for!! This is just crazy if you ask me.In 2008 I was able to stay in a 2005 two story 2,560 square foot home around $1,350 a month and that’s without utilities included in the rent.

    I put in a relocation request so I could move closer to my job which was a big mistake. I loved this home in Allen but I decided to leave because I was having car trouble and it was making it hard to get to work. Now housing is saying they will only pay the max of $1,189 and that’s it!! Thanks for telling me this now after I get my voucher. Now there is no turning back because I started the process.So this makes it harder for me to find a home in the area’s that have mostly all whites.They claim that in some areas they may warrant higher or lower rent than the subsidy standards.I tried to do paper work on a home in Carrollton and housing did not wont to do a amount of $1,285 a month.It was waste of paperwork and my time! The landlord was not going to lower his price ,because he knew someone would rent the home for what he was asking for that isn’t on the housing program.
    This house was really nice for a family.Allot of landlords will not go down in price on their homes. You would think they would because of the economy but they will not. This walker program is useless now if you ask me. It was good when I first got on but now I wish I had regular housing.I see more nice homes for rent around $900 on regular section 8. I am now stressed out and upset and the clock is ticking and I don’t wont to settle for just anything.
    I’m getting tired of being rejected on the amount of my voucher. I see all the homes that look nice in Dallas that is not on walker and cant move there because it is not majority white. I’m not getting rejected because of my looks,attitude, rental history, or credit. I’m getting turned away because nice home’s don’t wont to accept this low amount voucher! The only options that’s out there is to move in a very old house that’s about 900 square feet and cost the amount of this voucher or less and be unhappy. I could move to a section 8 apartment but there is not many out there that will pass for walker settlement. So my point on what I am trying to say is you have more options on regular section 8 then the walker. The walker program wasn’t always bad until some person cut cost and expect us to still find decent housing.Now if you do choose walker just remember your options are very low if you have a 1,2,and 3 bedroom voucher.
    It didn’t use to be low because they gave you a little extra to work with in the beginning.They make it sound good on giving you money to help you move and helping you with your deposit. What they don’t tell you is you will have a hard time finding what you wont. They tell you the voucher cost more then regular section 8 just to make it look good. Then you get out there after they made the change looking and cant find nothing. I’m not saying there isn’t a nice house out there that would work with your voucher. I’m just saying your options are very very slim. Just imagine other people are getting vouchers too on walker and if you lucky you might find something nice. I’m thankful to be on the program but just don’t like getting messed around. I feel they should have mailed out letters letting people know about the change. Give me that right to transfer to reg section 8. If I would have known about the price cut I would have stayed where I was at. I’m not looking for a pool or a mansion. I’m just trying to get a decent home for my family. The homes on the market in the predominantly white area cost a great deal to live in the neighborhood. Dallas Housing need to wake up and see that you don’t really have a big choice of homes when your voucher is worthless in price. I guess they feel we should be able to find a apartment then a house. This might also be a way to kick people off the program. The poor people that don’t ever find anything and run out of time lose their housing. You get some help from the the ICP people. They just offer you what you already found on the section 8 website .
    I can say the only positive that still exist with the program is your kids can find a good school way out. You just have to be unhappy with your living arrangements if you have my bedroom size or smaller.

  10. barbara sue ware February 4, 2010 at 10:01 am

    i;m interested in applying for the walkers plan.i did not know any thing about this program.i would like to get papaer work to be added to the list.

  11. I’m needing help for a disabled person currently on the Walker program. How long can you stay on the Walker program before you are eligible to purchase a home?

  12. Tonya Macdonald April 14, 2010 at 7:38 am

    My mother went to the meetin g at Bob Bowwer in Port Arthur Texas to get her voucher. She was pulled out of line because she did not have a paper from hurricane Rita! They told her she needed her id number from Fema, so I called Fema, they gave the number to me and I walked back up to the woman in charge, She would not accept that number, she wanted letter-head! What a load of crap!! Now that was back in Feb. After weeks of waiting, they have taken her off the waiting list and gave us many excuses why she was taken out of the system and had to reapply.S he is 74 yrs old, fixed income under 600 a month, she pays rent 625 a month, so we help her while waiting. They have all her info and still make excuses. I even wrote to the state rep, 3 months of waiting and no answer from him either. What the hell is going on ?? They act as if they are instructed to make it hard for people hoping they will give up!

  13. Well I have a Walker Settlement Voucher , My promlem is that i’m having a hard time finding the apartments that take the voucher period, why don’t they just give the people that have the voucher’s a list that take only The Walker Settlement voucher’s apposed to giving us a list that only has maybe one or two apartments on the list that take the vouchers.

  14. Melinda Coleman August 31, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    I was signed up for a housing assistance program through my apartment complex which is located in w. Fort Worth. Was processed by DHA and then told I was withdrawn because the program was for the Walker Vouchers which is for African Americans. My question has been ‘WHY WHERE 2 WHITE WOMEN AND ONE HISPANIC PROCESSED BY THE DHA, GATHERING ALL OUR VERY PERSONAL INFORMATION FOR A HOUSING VOUCHER PROGRAM THAT WE DO NOT EVEN QUALIFY FOR?????? CANT GET ANY ANSWERS!!!!!

  15. Filed application and never heard anything. I am disable and struggling, PLEASE may I get some answers………Dallas area

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