• 9 Investigates: Section 8 housing options shrinking despite growing demand

    By: Stephanie Maxwell

    Updated:

    Story highlights:

    • More than 31,000 people on waiting list for affordable housing vouchers.
    • Landlords say Section 8 housing costs them too much money.
    • CHA says 224 new housing providers have been added to the existing 1,673

    Demand for Section 8 housing continues to grow in Charlotte, but some participating landlords say it's not worth it and renters complain the rules are too strict.
     
    As of late April, 31,637 people were on the waiting list for a voucher for affordable housing.
     
    Channel 9 anchor Stephanie Maxwell spoke to a woman who only wanted to be identified as "Tracy." She's physically unable to work so she gets a Section 8 voucher to help pay for a home for herself and her two children. But she won't be in the home for long -- she didn't pay one of her utility bills and that's against the rules of the Charlotte Housing Authority.
     
    "I could lose my voucher," Tracy told Channel 9. "If I do, I'll be in a shelter."

    RESOURCE: Charlotte Housing Authority HQS Self-Inspection Checklist
     
    "I had 21 properties that I had under the Section 8 program in 2012. Today, I reduced it down to two," said Rick Stikeleather, owner of Stikeleather Realty. He plans to eventually have no Section 8 properties.
     
    Stikeleather said he pays the price when a tenant breaks the rules or something goes wrong with a Housing Authority inspection. He can lose part or all of his monthly rent money from CHA.
     
    "It may be the tenants’ responsibility, but if the tenant doesn't do what he's supposed to do, then they stop the landlord's rent," said Stikeleather.

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    Stikeleather gave Channel 9 a stack of emails showing the reasons why the Charlotte Housing Authority did not pay him because of failed inspections. He failed for problems like dead light bulbs or a crack in a refrigerator bin. Those small issues, as he called them, cost him money.
     
    "I have lost thousands," Stikeleather said.
     
    Stikeleather claimed he's made numerous suggestions to the Housing Authority, asking leaders to send certified letters to warn of rent abatement, asking for a third-party formal review and appeals process, and asking for a committee to oversee the program that involves landlords.
     
    Channel 9 made several attempts to speak to someone from the Housing Authority on camera. Instead, the agency sent a statement that says, in part, "We have an open-door policy for our landlords and we welcome their feedback, questions or concerns about the Housing Choice Voucher Program."


    Full Charlotte Housing Authority Statement:

    The Housing Choice Voucher Program allows low-income families to choose and lease safe, decent, and affordable privately-owned rental housing.  It is a federal program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    Locally, the Charlotte Housing Authority administers the Housing Choice Voucher program and is responsible for enforcing federal guidelines.  The Charlotte Housing Authority successfully works hand-in-hand with area landlords who participate in the Housing Choice Voucher program.  Working together, we are able to provide much-needed housing for thousands of local residents.

    We have an open-door policy for our landlords and we welcome their feedback, questions or concerns about the Housing Choice Voucher Program.


    "They don't respond," Stikeleather said in response to reading that statement. "Even the new leadership won't respond."


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    Channel 9 checked with other property management groups. Klutts Property Management said at one time it managed 75-100 Section 8 homes, but are now down to about 30. The company said when the market is good, like it is now, property owners don't need the business from the CHA and prefer to avoid dealing with its stringent rules.
     
    Stikeleather said he had considered giving the program a second chance with new leadership in place but decided against it.
     
    "I have to get out of a program that could be a good program that could help people. Yeah, I'm very upset," he said.

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    Tracy could get to keep her voucher after an appeals hearing with CHA. Even if she does, her landlord has asked her to pack up and move so he can stop participating in the program. When she called other property managers about possible Section 8 housing, she said many of them don't participate anymore.
     
    She said they told her, "They can't afford risking losing their money."
     
    The Charlotte Housing Authority said from January 2014 to March 2015, 224 new housing providers have been added to the existing 1,673. CHA did not tell Channel 9 how many have left the program.

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