The most widely known program for housing is Section 8 which is actually part of the Housing Act of 1937. Wikipedia states that it is Public Law 74-412 which means it was enacted by the 74th Congress. Congress.gov however, only lists public laws as far back as the 93rd Congress so Public Law 74-412 can be examined on Wikisource, Legis Works and GovTrack. Someone can probably go checkout the volume from the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. if it is claimed that the net findings are invalidated due to their unofficialness but at least if that topic comes up people now know where to look which is often more than half the challenge.
The program appears to get its name because Low Income Housing appears in Chapter 8 of Title 42 in the US Code. Chapter 8 is split into 4 sections which are; Chapter 8 Low Income Housing, Chapter 8a Slum Clearance, Urban Renewal and Farm Housing, Chapter 8b Public Works or Facilities, and Chapter 8c Open-Space Land. Chapter 8b and 8c have been ommitted, you can actually go on uscode.house.gov to find out why. As an example Chapter 8b section 1491 to section 1497 are omitted because the program ended on January 1st 1975 so it does not make sense to continue to included the text as it is no longer applicable. The sections do not have to be repealed because the legislation had a set time limit rather than being perpetual until repealed which is the default for all legislation. Because the legislation expired after a set time limit, it is omitted rather than being repealed. Regardless of whether legislation is omitted or repealed, you can see the Public Law Reference on Justia and then go browse Congress.gov for the actual text. Hopefully one day, they will have the text for all sessions of Congress going back to the 1st Congress in 1789 in a web accessible format (meaning HTML) and hopefully that is before 2030 but for now, you have to use a bunch of different websites. I prefer Justia as my main source.
It is important to look at the omitted sections for context. In particular, it is interesting to note that Chapter 8b references US Code Title 42 § 257 in the margin of the PDF (see pg. 900) as a way to condemn public works buildings. Section 257 would appear in Chapter 4 of Title 40, Subtitle I and chapter 4 has been completely deleted along with chapter 2 without trace from the US Code with no reference to commission or repeal. This can be verified on the web portal for the US Code hosted by the US House of Representatives. This might have been because it was tied to Chapter 8b which expired in 1975 but it should say so on uscode.house.gov. A simple note saying legislation expired in 1975 would provide a complete record.
During my research, I noticed delays in repairs on low income housing and it appears that the goal might be to declare the housing uninhabitable which would allow condemning the building and kicking out all the tenants into a homeless shelter. It is important to address that as a possible reason that an entire section of the US Code is missing without reference to as why it was omitted or repealed. It may very well be missing due to public corruption which includes embezzling funds allocated towards minority and impoverished neighborhoods. It’s been documented, so I’ll move on but feel free to investigate further as you have time. My inclination is it was tied to Chapter 8b and expired in 1975. This “missing section of the US Code” also highlights the benefits of having both Public Laws and the US Code freely available and not restricted to judges, attorneys prosecutors. It allows for public review. Some landlords may be trying to use an expired section of the US Code in corrupt manner for their own personal gain and they need to understand that the most recent version of the US Code is the only one that is valid.
Section 8 Explained
The point of a housing program, and any federal assistance program, is to get the participant the services they need and move them as quickly as possible towards self sufficiency without causing them to fail due to moving along to fast and not understanding the guidelines for self sufficiency in modern society.
In this regard, I feel the Section 8 program has a really good outline of what should be required in a housing program and that all state, regional, county and municipal housing programs should function with the same guidelines. This provisions for a housing program include the following:
- It allows the Secretary of HUD to sue and be sued.
- It allows inspection of financial books for anybody participating in the program.
- It clearly specifies the program is for US Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents only.
- It has a quarterly reporting requirements for HUD to ICE and mandates HUD cooperate with ICE.
- It has guidelines for affordable rent payments. I feel the 30% of income should apply to everybody regardless of total wages.
- It requires community service for those not employed.
- It provides a path to home ownership.
- It is a self-sufficiency program.
- It has tenant based grants for replacement housing and revitalization.
- It allows pets for people interested in owning a pet.
- It requires sale of any units to be offered to the current tenants first.
- It has quality and affordability standards for the home ownership program.
- It’s homeowner program is in addition to, not as an alternative to other housing programs.
- It attempts to build mixed income communities.
- It allows and encourages resident managers.
- It has provisions for State Housing Agencies.
- It has provisions for Local Housing Agencies.
- It allows dedicated senior and disabled housing.
Overall, the program is very comprehensive and like medicare, should be extended to all individuals. The majority of people will probably not need housing assistance or they will only need it temporarily, but every individual will need some form of housing and there should be standardized housing rights across the whole USA that include minimum dwelling size based on height and weight, and maximum cost for housing based on wages (30% of adjusted income for a primary home is an ideal baseline). This would address several issues such as housing affordability, tenant and property rights, building crime free communities and civic involvement for long term tenants in a community.
Since there are already provisions within Title 42 Chapter 8 for State and Local Housing Agencies, it would make sense to rename HUD to the US Department of Housing which would deal with all housing issues including those faced by lawful immigrants, those living in poverty, first time buyers and renters (who often get price gouged) and couples who are separating but don’t have the means to allow each individual to live independently. Having a centralized Department of Housing would allow states to relocate homeless to other states where more empty housing is available and human resources are needed to help build jobs. A nationwide, standardized federal program would allow the US Federal Government to intervene with individuals that are not keeping up with an areas economic developments before they are on the brink of homelessness and give them options for work (in partnership with the Department of Labor) and housing based on their skill set and projected income even if that is in another state.
I examined two locations, one rural and one urban. While the location in South Dakota would not necessarily meet the definition of rural to the locals, it would definitely fit the definition to people from urban areas with populations of over 2 million like Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles or New York. Suburbs would also be an ideal description for the location in South Dakota.
Los Angeles County, California
Los Angeles had a policy of only allowing women and women with children to apply for section 8 for some time. Currently, they are accepting all applicants regardless of age, gender, race, nationality, education or disability. However, the waiting list for Los Angeles County is quite long and they are currently processing applicants from 2003.
Los Angeles County is one of the locations of the west coast homeless crises so it is important to evaluate what options are available for someone who is experiencing or is at risk of homelessness. As the largest populated area in the United States it should also be an area that is heavily monitored for housing trends including growth and migration. Good policies can be integrated into a standardized housing program through the proposed US Department of Housing and bad policies can be terminated before they cost tax payers too much money.
GR (General Relief) is the comprehensive monetary assistance program in Los Angeles County and it is available for US Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents who have been in Los Angeles for at least 15 days. It appears to be available throughout all of Southern California and also in Sacramento, I did not lookup GR availability for all 58 California counties. While GR or GA (General Assistance) is the county level program for the cash portion of government subsidies, it also serves as a gateway subsidy into other government subsidies like food stamps, housing vouchers, free healthcare and paid job placement assistance. I’ve been going through the program for about two months as a participant and it has allowed me to see what the barriers are to self-sufficiency, what gaps exist for participants and to think about how all of these programs can be integrated into federal programs and put under their guidelines and supervision. Housing is obviously highly dependent on employment so I feel, it is a good program and should probably be integrated with Department of Labor and the proposed Department of Housing as a centralized point to deal with those two issues.
As far as the housing portion of GR goes in Los Angeles County, the following programs are available for single adults:
Homeless General Relief Emergency Housing
- $4.53 per night for housing, usually will go into the coffers of a homeless shelter.
- Up to 90 days housing for disabled 18 to 26 year olds.
GR Housing Subsidy & Case Management
- $500 Deposit and $475 rent subsidy for the life of GR which has a 9 month per year limit. $100 is also deducted from your cash benefits so your maximum monthly rent amount is $575. They also ween you off the program and when your income reaches $600, you are no longer eligible for the GR Housing Subsidy and case management. I feel this should be $1,300 and expire at the same time as your cash based assistance and food stamps. Since the program in Los Angeles is 9 months, if an adult willing to work can get a job within 90 days, the increased limit for a housing subsidy will help participants save for first month’s rent and deposit on a one bedroom apartment over the next 6 months. From there, they can start saving for a down payment on a house or choose (in writing) to stay in apartments.
The housing subsidy and case management is definitely the best option into responsible adulthood even if the amounts needs some adjustment to be realistic and feasible. The program will currently get you a private room in Los Angeles and the price isn’t so high that real estate agents will start buying up all the properties and having their business owner friends fire everybody to collect that sweet rent subsidy money. In a 3 bedroom house, the maximum rent collected from 3 GR recipients would be $1725 which is pretty close to the mortgage amount plus taxes and some money for repairs which will hopefully not be needed. The program leaves very little room for profits so it is also perfect for addressing the homeless crises and housing shortage in a responsible manner. The room must be rented directly from the owner but the owner can have a property management firm or the owner can be an LLC for privacy reasons but again, there is not much room for profiting off of people in need. A suggestion would be for GR to add some rental insurance for the landlord as part of the process to cover any willful property damage which would further educate participants on home ownership. Most GR participants will not have any property worth more than $100 but property insurance can be discussed when they move on to a 1 bedroom, a course on insurance fraud would also be a good idea at this point.
Based on the program guidelines, there are 538 listings on Craigslist for a private room at the moment and 339 listings for private room with private bathroom. I would personally make the private room a requirement of the program since 4 or more bunk beds to a bedroom is overcrowded and would allow $6,900 or more in rental income from a home with around a $1,600 mortgage. This would have the effect of making neighborhoods overcrowded and setting a standard of expensive housing in Los Angeles with no room to grow a family. It would also potentially be abused as a permanent alternative to hotels and homeless shelters.
The GR case manager should do a walk through prior to the participant moving in and after moving out of the private bedroom. This would help document any tenants that need courses on rental etiquette and allow GR to serve as a neutral housing reference.
With the $475 housing subsidy, $175 in food stamps and $190 in cash benefits, that only adds up to $840. With $100 being deducted from the cash benefit to pay the rent, that leaves a participant with $90 in cash and $175 in food stamps. Someone who has gotten this behind on bills and has been out of work for some time might not be able to go into immediate full time employment and some jobs in Los Angeles still pay less than $15 an hour. The hourly wage in 2019 can be as low as $12 an hour in Los Angeles. For 25 hours at $12/hr that is $1,200 in 4 weeks and at $15/hr it is $1,500 in 4 weeks. With the cheapest apartments costing $1,500 a month on average, the participant will need $3,000 or more to move into their own place and make wages of $26/hr to afford the cheapest places in Los Angeles. Most jobs in Los Angeles are currently not paying more than $18 to $24 an hour.
It is probably most realistic to increase the limits to $1,300 and include budgeting classes as a requirement of GR participation so that they can practice living off their savings for the 3 months they are not eligible for GR benefits. That way they don’t end up homeless during their periods of ineligibility. Housing prices in Los Angeles obviously need to come down based on current wages because it is unrealistic that grown adults will live in private bedrooms their whole life, even after obtaining a bachelors degree and a professional job paying less than $26 per hour.
This is part of Los Angeles County measure H program. I have received feedback that measure H is a complete failure in regards to housing and it is probably due to not initially addressing some of the programs points of failure which the GR Housing Subsidy does address. So far I have learned that PATH offers several ways to address the homeless crises, the 3 main ones are:
- Crises Outreach – Volunteers make contact with the homeless and try and get them into stable housing.
- Prevention – You are couch surfing and can no longer stay there or about to be evicted from an apartment.
- Rapid Rehousing – You are on the streets for any length of time between 1 day and 6 months.
Prevention and rapid rehousing would possibly result in interim housing where the rent would gradually increase based on wages, however the program is difficult to get into and my experience is that the PATH staff make excuses for why you don’t qualify for either program. They work in 140 cities but have only housed an average of 60 people per city. They have built 763 units and have less than 500 units being built or “coming soon”. This seems like a great program but it needs a lot of work and they should probably work with HUD and GR to ensure people couch surfing, in a private bedroom through GR housing subsidy and currently employed are housed first into their new constructions. Those in homeless shelters should begin employment from the homeless shelter and move into a private bedroom and then into the PATH program. The people on the streets would then move into the homeless shelters as room becomes available.
Crises outreach is for people who have been living on the street for some time which requires more case management and might often result in getting registered into a homeless shelter so participants can have consistent meals, shelter and showers. This is the best course of action for someone living on the streets or what is called “rough sleeping” in London. Couch surfing and “staying with your mates” is also considered homelessness and living on the streets in London and that is likewise the US Federal Definition of homelessness.
For prevention and rapid rehousing, the program works very similar to GR Housing Subsidy in that GR pays less of your rent the closer you get to the $600 income limit, again I think you should not be completely weaned off until you hit the $1,300 limit because the point is to get you to manage your own money rather than juggle subsidies.
Overall, PATH seems like a good program but construction takes lots of time. Currently they have 206 units being built but across all 140 cities they work in but there is an estimated 60,000 homeless people in Los Angeles. The number of homeless people in Los Angeles is probably higher but even the 60,000 number is incredibly high compared to the number of units path will have available.
PATH and GR are definitely the two best programs so far and they should be combined to work as one comprehensive housing program. Converting the combined programs into a phases where you go from a private bedroom into a shared home to completely independent living based on your work activity and case management reviews is the most fair and non-discriminatory housing program and it would make sense to implement it on a nationwide scale as part of the proposed Department of Housing.
John McNara, CEO of needhelppayingbills.com has put together a listing of housing assistance and shelters on his website. I reviewed the websites of New Image Shelter, Long Beach Health and Human Services. The GR case manager informed me of the Weingart which offers comprehensive homeless assistance programs and their website states the programs require the participants to save 75% of their income which seems to be a good requirement to end homelessness. The Weingart is where GR pays the $4.53 per night for emergency shelter so there is obviously already a bit of integration there. I would take this integration one step further and make the private room in a shared bedroom the next phase of housing for someone who ended up in a homeless shelter.
I also looked at The Midnight Mission which offers 90 days of emergency shelter. I feel that The Midnight Mission environment is perfectly suited for the rough sleepers on skid row to give them a place for better hygiene and to eliminate people sleeping on the street. Weingart and The Midnight Mission are my two favorite programs in the homeless shelter category and I will be stopping by to view the facilities in person before the end of October 2019.
Based on a listing on John McNara’s website, I reviewed the websites of Apartment Corp. The site was a non-profit offering rental assistance before becoming a senior citizen center and finally a foreign investment center. The website has information on the E2 and EB5 Visas and quite frankly, I believe real estate investments should be off limits to foreign visa holders until we fix the housing crises nationwide. Foreign investors should also not be allowed to participate in direct management of housing and should only be able to invest in direct funding of new construction.
Arriving in Los Angeles from out of town, I was surprised to learn that I could not rent an apartment without paystubs proving I had 12 months worth of Los Angeles based W2 wages and made 3 times the rent amount. This seems to be a direct cause of the E2 and EB5 visas.
I found the requirement for W2 wages to be discriminatory against people who work as 1099 contractors, live off of investment distributions and who have saved up enough money to pay a whole 12 month lease in one payment. In my case, I am a US Citizen and like to travel, I came from another state, not another country and have a solid work history. I feel that part of this discrimination is due to me belonging to a group that has been pushing for short term leases of 3 to 6 months and getting rid of Air BnB because it is often not much better than a Craigslist bedroom. Air BnB also turned out to be a mixture of Hostel, Hotel and Bed and Breakfast with a higher cost and none of the amenities such as room service, cleaning service or cooking services. This new requirement for 12 months of W2 wages appears to be retaliation from the California based “IT” companies.
I did end up finding one place that offered to rent with 6 months of Los Angeles based pay stubs proving 2 times the rent but this means I would still be homeless for 6 months during a job relocation to Los Angeles. This has been an overall issue with housing in Los Angeles for 1099 contractors, investors living off distributions, those inheriting a trust fund or estate and heavy savers. The issue became more obvious in 2009/2010 when more people started doing 1099 independent contracting and starting their own business. Initially, you could show the first page of the bank statement for last 3 months and redact the purchases, only showing the balances or provide the previous years taxes but slowly they started taking that away those options in Los Angeles until everyone that worked for themselves was stuck in a Craigslist bedroom and left with a choice of running a business or being homeless.
The landlords approval process for people who work under 1099 contract or have money saved up needs to be addressed as part of the housing crises. It is probably a small percentage of legitimate professionals whose preferred mode of payment is 1099 contract due to intellectual property rights which appears to be a threat to the executives in Hollywood industry even if the intellectual property has nothing to do with making movies. Attorneys, CPAs, Authors, Painters, Computer Programmers and inventors are all eligible for 1099 payments under IRS guidelines and should be eligible for any type of housing they can afford.
Often times, landlords state they need W2 wages because it is the only way they can prove someone is not a drug dealer or pimp but they are not the police and the police department would definitely be liable for any repairs to windows or doors during a raid (which is rare). My suggestion for the landlord approval process for people without W2s would be 3 months of rent upfront, and going back to the bank statements and most recent taxes for approval, even 2 years of taxes is not unreasonable since many people start businesses part time and would not think of living of non-W2 income until the business has been open for at lest two years anyways. The price should also be the same regardless of whether you are a 1099 contractor, a W2 employer or investor living off dividends or corporate distributions so higher wages or income should not mean more expensive rent for the same apartment your lower income neighbor gets for less money. This is aside from the housing subsidy so the housing subsidy would cover any wage shortfalls so that the tenant is paying no more of 1/3 of their wages towards housing.
I feel that between the environment at The Midnight Mission and the programs at the Weingart, that the homeless crises can be addressed in full with the oversight from the proposed Department of Housing for all programs. A homeless person would go from sleeping on the street to sleeping in a dorm. They would receive mental health assessments and medical screenings to determine if they would be eligible for housing in a private bedroom within a shared home and work their way up to independent living through the GR program. The homeless shelter medical staff would also medically determine if sleeping in a dorm and creating good work habits would be their best choice for the time being. Illegal aliens would also be placed in this same dorm environment of The Midnight Mission during processing of their cases. They should not be allowed to live in standard housing until their cases are complete.
For people experiencing loss of a job, divorce or separation requiring separate housing, and for young adults leaving their parents home, they would go directly into the GR Housing Subsidy program, regardless of income to prevent a further increase to the homeless population. GR works as an interest free loan so it is a great option as a prevention tool because it allows couples separating to not loose their primary home, allows young adults an opportunity to live with roommates and learn proper etiquette with strangers that are not their neighbors and it allows those between jobs to put things in storage or receive rental assistance during a supervised job search.
In these cases, GR would be give them housing assistance through the proposed Department of Housing and direct them to job placement through the existing US Department of Labor. Legal immigrants, including those who notified the US Government of hardship prior to their VISA expiring would be placed in this category and they would get a plane ticket home as soon as possible.
Ideally, all these programs would have a consistent name throughout the USA so people know where to go when they have a problem. As an example, when people need money they know they need to go to the bank, when they need additional training they go to school, when they need their car fixed, they go to the mechanic. When people need help with their housing, the would go to the Department of Housing (e.g. US Department of Housing, US Department of Housing – California, US Department of Housing – Los Angeles).
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota. It has less than 200,000 people and there are only 1 million people in the entire state. It gets cold in Sioux Falls during the winter but temperatures do vary from year to year. Between December 2012 and January of 2013, the first winter I spent there, temperatures did not get colder than 8 degrees Fahrenheit. However, Between December 2018 and March 2019 it was extremely cold reaching below 0 several times. Temperatures reached -25 degrees Fahrenheit on January 30, 2019 without wind chill and it was colder than Antarctica. The extreme cold in Sioux Falls during 2019 was due to a polar vortex caused by climate change. 3 people died of exposure to the elements and this is unfortunately a common occurrence during cold winters, not only in Sioux Falls but in many parts of South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota.
As a small Midwest town/city, Sioux Falls does not have the plethora of services that are available in Los Angeles and New York or even smaller cities like Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle and Portland. However, for the size of the town, it does have extensive services available. For most people, it is a great place to find a quick job, get on back on your feet or to get a change as pace as they have several jobs in the banking and medical service industries which might come as a surprise for people who never thought about visiting South Dakota.
Because of the size of the town and the proximity of farms, it might not seem like there would be a need for homeless services but that depends on who you talk to. If you are talking mostly to volunteer organizations and clergy, you start to see the need for social services even in what seems like a small town if you are coming from a big place with 10 million residents.
Most of the services available in Sioux Falls are religious based with the exception of the Minnehaha Health and Human Services department. This is due to the community being historically Christian oriented and being too small for comprehensive federal budgets. Many of the services were started by Christian community leaders who eventually did get funding or made their programs work through local fundraising and volunteering. Today Sioux Falls has a Muslim Community Center. Sioux Falls’ faith based programs have also been updated to offer, but not require, Christian prayer and studies for its participants. It’s important to explain the history of Sioux Falls, because the first thing that you notice when seeking social services in Sioux Falls is that the social services directory looks like a church listing. However, the services they offer are available to everyone that meets their financial guidelines and nearly all services require initial qualification to go through the Minnehaha County Health and Human Services Department.
Unlike Los Angeles County, Minnehaha County does not have a cash assistance program like GR that works as a gateway subsidy to other self sufficiency services. The only cash assistance in Sioux Falls is TANF which is a federal program and it is restricted to women and women with children. TANF should probably be restructured to function like GR and be available Nationwide.
In Sioux Falls, you have to find all the subsidies on your own and string them together to make ends meet if your job does not pay enough for basic necessities. Most of the services require you to obtain a denial letter from Minnehaha County Human Services before they will help you so in this way, you exhaust all Government services before the local churches will help you.
The rents in Minnehaha county have gone up while the wages have gone down since I first arrived in Sioux Falls. There is a rumor that this is due to LAPD “training” after I arrived since after they arrived is also when Sioux Falls started a meth epidemic that it is still dealing with. The meth, drug and gang problem has calmed a bit since the last time I was there but it is still a critical issue.
Prior to the LAPD “training”, Sioux Falls had high wages and low housing cost that contributed to its healthy environment and low crime rates.
- $350 for a studio/ $500 for a one bedroom; one time deposit.
- $350 for a studio/ $500 for a one bedroom; one time move-in assistance.
- $350 for a studio/ $500 for a one bedroom; one time eviction prevention assistance.
- $350 for a studio/ $500 for a one bedroom; one time moving to more affordable housing assistance to be used for rent or deposit.
The county rental assistance program functions a lot like GR Housing subsidies and there are 4, one time assistance you can actually receive. Since these two programs are so similar, it provides a great opportunity to merge the best of the two programs and combine with TANF/SNAP so that there is a consistent program for everyone that is traveling or relocating for work throughout the USA.
- $150 anti eviction good faith payment.
This will usually not stop an eviction by itself but if you can get this and another subsidy, it might prevent you from being evicted. They are only open Tuesday and Thursday so it is hard to get a hold of them if you are working full time but still not making ends meet.
- Varies based on funding up to one months rent to prevent eviction. One time only in 12 month period.
I was able to obtain less than half of one months rent.
- LIEAP – South Dakota offers up to $600 paid directly to the utility companies for low income people during the winter.
- Minnehaha County Human Services – will get you current on your bills. 1 time in 12 months with a shutoff notice. This is an interest free loan however.
- Community Outreach – will get you current on your bills. 1 time in 12 months with a shutoff notice. Not a loan but you will not be approved unless denied by the county.
- Bishop Dudley – the premier, flag ship homeless shelter for the city. It is well known to travelers who are allowed to stay there for 30 days. It is a large shelter with a playground for children. Some people sleep on the street outside the shelter by choice not because it is full. This is the preferred shelter for the homeless population.
- Union Gospel Mission – the main facility is for women and children only and is next to Bishop Dudley.
- Union Gospel Mission, men’s home – A homeless shelter just for men. Does not have great reviews among the homeless population but people do not mind staying there when Bishop Dudley is full.
- St. Francis House – Another homeless shelter, did not speak to anyone that stayed there has 4 stars on Google.
- The Banquet – not a homeless shelter, offers hot plates, 3 meals a day.
- Glory House – This is a substance abuse program with a capacity for 84 people. It now offers meth treatment.
- There are also various low cost hotels the city may occasionally use for housing.
It would probably take over a decade to catalogue all the housing and employment programs in the USA. However both go hand in hand to address the nationwide homeless crises which has hit the west coast the hardest. I think the data from these two locations gives a good starting point for a standardized program across the USA. Representatives and Senators from other district can then address any related problems with these programs in Congress and start standardizing their budgets towards this new federal program.