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Los Angeles Leads Nation in Federal Rent Vouchers

Housing: Section 8 program pays for up to 60% of cost for low-income residents.

July 12, 2001|OSCAR JOHNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Once again, Los Angeles received more vouchers for federal rent subsidies than any city in the nation this year, city housing officials said Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development increased the number of Section 8 vouchers for L.A. by 2,700. Last year, HUD increased the number by 2,107, which also led the nation.

Section 8 vouchers can pay up to 60% of the rent for low-income tenants who qualify.

Don Smith, of the city's Housing Authority, called the numbers "an acknowledgment of the tremendous need low-income families, persons with disabilities and the elderly have for rental assistance in the city of Los Angeles."

About 40,000 households in the city receive the subsidies, according to the agency. About 130,000 people are on a waiting list, and some are not expected to receive assistance for nearly a decade.

The thousands of new vouchers are "a step in the right direction," said Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, a citywide tenants rights group. "But the real problem is finding landlords that will accept the vouchers."

Landlords accepting Section 8 say they are subject to more stringent building inspections and delayed payments.

With a glut of renters and a dearth of housing in Los Angeles (the vacancy rate dropped from 10% through most of the 1990s to 3% this year), many landlords have stopped accepting the vouchers.

The rate of Section 8 recipients able to use their vouchers was about 90% in the 1990s, said Steve Renahan, a Housing Authority director. It is now about 50%.

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