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NAA featured in NPR Series on Struggles of Low-Income Renters

Low-Income Renters

Digested from “In A High-Rent World, Affordable And Safe Housing Is Hard To Come By”
NPR (3/30/16) Fessler, Pam

A three-part NPR series on the struggles low-income families face in paying rent featured cautionary advice from an National Apartment Association board member: Developing more affordable housing will require additional incentives.

Evicting residents is a costly prospect for a landlord, according to Mike Clark, owner of Dallas-based Alpha-Barnes Real Estate Services. To avoid this scenario, government entities can take a series of steps to drive up low-income housing.

“Tax credits, property tax breaks, reduced utility rates, reduced hookups, zoning alternatives, all kinds of things like that. That’s what produces housing,” Clark said.

“Then we can be successful, at least make progress. There's a long road to hoe here,” he admitted.

For the more than 10 million households who earn a third or less of their area’s median family income, there are not enough affordable and available rental homes to go around, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. In 2014, a little more than 3 million homes fit this description.

Most low-income housing evictions involve women and children whose incomes can’t keep pace with their monthly rental payments. Most of those who challenge their landlords in rent court are very poor, have just a high school education, and lose their cases. NPR’s articles, which focus on conditions in the nation’s capital, describe the anxiety tenants on the edge of eviction face as they wait for marshals to show up at their door and the “organized chaos” that takes place in Washington D.C.’s rental courts.

Some tenants who stop paying rent due to unresolved maintenance problems bring photos to court to help prove their case. Others who owe their landlords thousands of dollars opt to settle things out of court.

Housing vouchers are an option for helping cash-strapped tenants pay rent, but the high volume of families on the list for vouchers forced the District of Columbia to close down the program.

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