The City of Santa Monica has settled a potential lawsuit over payments for Section 8 tenants.

A private housing provider had threatened to sue the City alleging payments amounts for Section 8 tenants were too low for current tenants. The city disputed the claim and the settlement compromise allows for higher payments for new tenants but retains lower payment amounts for existing tenants.

Section 8 payments are governed by Santa Monica’s Housing Choice Voucher program (HCV). HCV is part of federal program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program for assisting very low-income households. The program establishes a maximum payment for housing based on the size of the unit and requires tenants to pay 30 percent of their income towards the rent. Vouchers pay the remainder up to the maximum amount.

In Santa Monica, the program caps payment at $1,512 for a studio, $1930 for a one bedroom, $2,640 for a two bedroom, $3,366 for a three or four bedroom unit.

Any household with an income less than 50% of that median income is potentially eligible to have their rent subsidized under the program.

The amounts can change over time and the threatened lawsuit was triggered by a payment revision.

“In 2016, the Housing Authority received authorization from HUD to increase the maximum payment standards for Section 8 voucher holders,” said a statement from the City Attorney’s office. “The Housing Authority sought the increased payment standard in order to help voucher-holders be more competitive when seeking apartments in the open market.  After the HUD-approved increase, the Housing Authority generally authorized higher payment amounts for new tenancies in market rate housing. For new tenancies in deed-restricted housing, the Housing Authority generally did not authorize the higher payment amounts because the existing deeds already limit the allowed rental amounts. The deeds include language allowing for the rent to be set under the Section 8 program.”

According to the City Attorney’s office, SAMO Apartments, LLC threatened to sue the City and the Housing Authority alleging that the deed restriction mandated Housing Authority’s payment of the higher payment standard amount approved by HUD in 2016.  

“The agreement settles the potential litigation without conceding the legal position of the City and Housing Authority,” said the statement. “The terms of the settlement would enable application of the most current maximum payment amount approved by HUD for all new Section 8 voucher holders in SAMO Apartments and maintain the current rental amounts for existing voucher holders in SAMO Apartments.”

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors also recently acted on behalf of Section 8 tenants.

According to Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s office, the County motion prohibits landlords from denying a lease to prospective renters on the basis of their source of income, such as Section 8 voucher holders and also calls for fair housing testing, tenant education, landlord incentives, a study of gentrification and displacement, and a $5 million commitment to the effort.  

The effort followed reports that showed the County had a disproportionally high rate of denials for Section 8 tenants seeking housing and an exceptionally tight housing market. “Implementation of the nation’s Fair Housing Act is 50 years overdue,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, author of the motion. “With today’s action, LA County is saying we will wait no longer. Discrimination in housing is exacerbating our housing and homelessness crisis by allowing landlords to discriminate and deny leases to families who want and can pay for housing.”

While the County’s actions occurred within days of the City announcing its settlement, the two were not connected.

 

HCV qualification amounts

Family Size Annual Income

1 Person $33,950    

2 Persons $38,800

3 Persons $43,650

4 Persons $48,450

5 Persons $52,350

6 Persons $56,250

7 Persons $60,100

8 Persons $64,000

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...

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