Developers taking public funds should accept rent vouchers, Charlotte housing chief says

By Lauren Lindstrom, The Charlotte Observer

Mecklenburg renters who use vouchers are often kept out of areas of highest opportunity, and Charlotte’s housing authority wants county leaders to leverage big-budget development deals to expand access to housing.

Fulton Meachem, Inlivian’s CEO, has asked Mecklenburg County to require developers who ask for taxpayer money from the county — including land transactions and tax incentives — to accept vouchers in any housing built.

Too many landlords automatically screen out potential tenants with vouchers for way they pay, Meachem said, even if applicants meet other rental criteria, like credit score and a background check, and have a voucher that covers the asking rent.

Individuals and family often wait for years on the local waiting list for federal Housing Choice vouchers, often referred to as the Section 8 program. When their turn comes, about 1 of every 5 will ultimately not use the rental voucher they’re eligible for because they can’t find a willing landlord.

That discrimination, Meachem told members of the county’s intergovernmental affairs committee last week, pushes people with vouchers into areas of poverty and low opportunity, far from jobs and transit and into areas of higher crime.

“We know that when we’re 50 out of 50 when it comes to economic mobility in the city, one of the biggest indicators about that is economic segregation,” he said.

Some cities and states have laws against landlords turning down prospective renters based on their source of income, like if they get help paying rent through vouchers. Past efforts to pass a local law against source of income discrimination for renters have not succeeded.

Read more at The Charlotte Observer

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