By Arlene Jones
I got a call from a Community Activist the other day. She had been protesting in Oak Park and had picked up a copy of our newspaper and when she saw my column, she called me. She wanted me to do a story on the protest that had happened. "Tell me about it," I said as I sat back to hear what travesty of social injustice had brought her to Oak Park. "The Oak Park Apartments won't accept Section 8 certificates," she told me and then began to state how some are disabled or seniors. She then waited for me to join in and applaud her actions, but I had to take pause. I have seen the devastation that small landlords suffer with tenants. So if a landlord doesn't want to take on Section 8 and the paperwork involved, shouldn't that be his or her right?
I then got a long list of reasons about "source of income" discrimination. But at the same time, with landlords having a tight margin of profit more often than not, shouldn't they have the right to determine if its easier to get the money straight from the tenant without the intervention of the third party (aka the goverment)? My community activist friend was taken aback with my response. But until both sides of the picture is viewed, I don't just buy one side. Oak Park has worked hard and diligent to keep itself where it is. Personally I would love to see in Austin a limit on the number of voucher holders simply to keep certain areas balanced with people whose source of income comes from a variety of places. In truth, the most successful buildings filled with everyone mostly on some sort of assistance are senior buildings and even they face challenges. As my two most senior-in-age-only advisors are always quick to point out: A young fool grows to be an old fool.
So for folks in Austin that have dealt with the Section 8 tenant from heaven or hell, what do you think? Should landlords be forced to take on Section 8 if they don't want to be bothered. I know some of you folks with two, three, four or six flats have an opinion. Tell me what that is?