Thanks to your support and the dedication of NLSLA’s advocates, more than 45,000 families who depend on Section 8 rental subsidies are now protected from sudden, illegal rent hikes that threatened to push them into homelessness.
In a major victory for low-income renters across the city, NLSLA secured a groundbreaking settlement requiring the Los Angeles city housing authority to increase voucher amounts for renters when it approves landlord rent hikes.
“The housing authority told our clients they were on the hook for massive rent increases that sometimes doubled and even tripled their rent,” said NLSLA Director of Litigation David Pallack. “This settlement ensures the housing authority increases the subsidy at the same time as it allows the landlords to raise the rents.”
The federal government provides rent subsidies to low-income families through the Section 8 program, allowing them to pay about 30 percent of their income for rent while the local housing authority pays the balance. Landlords in the Section 8 program can, periodically, raise rents. To minimize the harm to tenants, federal law requires housing authorities to increase their subsidy. But the city housing authority told tenants they would be responsible for the increased rent until their annual re-examination—leaving them to pay the increase for months.
For NLSLA client Rebecca Gutierrez, that increase amounted to a 300 percent rent hike. Gutierrez, a plaintiff in NLSLA’s successful lawsuit, shares her apartment with her five children and one granddaughter. Every inch of wall is covered with photos of birthdays and graduations. When she was told about the rent increase, she was terrified.
“I felt like crying. I thought ‘What am I going to do?’” Gutierrez went to the housing authority to ask for help, and was handed a list of local shelters. “[They] told me that the owner was entitled to evict me and my kids if I didn’t come up with the rent,” she said. “If I don’t have the money to pay the rent then I’m going to be homeless.”
Today, Rebecca and her neighbors—along with 45,000 section 8 voucher holders in the city of LA—no longer have to worry about losing their housing. And the successful settlement could impact renters in other areas as well.
“We’ve heard from people in multiple jurisdictions across the country that this is happening,” said Deborah Thorpe, supervising attorney for the National Housing Law Project. “At first we thought it might be an issue mostly in heated housing markets like Los Angeles, but we’ve heard it coming up in smaller areas as well.”
To help other jurisdictions deal with the issue, NLSLA has created a roadmap detailing the legal arguments and providing strategies for legal services groups on working with their local housing authorities to implement a similar solution.
“This is a simple solution to a problem with potentially devastating consequences,” Pallack said. “These vouchers were created to ensure low-income families have a place to call home.”