A report released by the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, “Recruiting Opportunity Landlords: Lessons from Landlords in Maryland,” investigates landlord motivations and hesitations to participating in housing voucher programs. The researchers describe measures taken by the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program (BHMP) to improve landlord recruitment in high-opportunity neighborhoods. The report concludes with policy recommendations to increase landlord recruitment and retention in Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) mobility programs. Recommendations include streamlining administrative processes, instituting landlord incentive programs, and increasing enforcement of source-of-income protection laws.
A growing body of research demonstrates that moving children from low-opportunity to high-opportunity neighborhoods can have significant impacts on their health, economic opportunities, academic outcomes, and well-being. While the traditional HCV program provides rental assistance to increase affordability, it has not been shown to help recipients move to high-opportunity neighborhoods. To foster mobility for HCV recipients, 20 programs have been established across the country to help families move into higher opportunity neighborhoods. This report focuses on lessons learned from the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program (BHMP), administered by the Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership (BRHP). Specifically, the study examined what landlords perceived to be benefits and barriers to participating in housing voucher programs.
To assess landlord perceptions of housing voucher programs, the researchers conducted 40 in-depth interviews with landlords who own properties in high-opportunity neighborhoods and who qualify for BHMP. The interviews included 30 landlords who participated in BHMP and 10 landlords who did not. To gather additional program context, the researchers held two meetings with BHMP staff.
Landlords shared perceived benefits of participating in the HCV program. They felt that HCV recipients were more likely to become long-term tenants, staying in their units for longer than one year. This is beneficial to landlords because long-term tenancy prevents costly and time-intensive activities such as ad postings, property showings, and tenant screenings. Landlords also appreciated the guaranteed monthly rent payments from HCV recipients. These payments are reliable and largely prevent landlords from having to negotiate with tenants about past due rent. Finally, several landlords spoke positively of voucher recipients, dispelling negative stereotypes associated with families who participate in rent subsidy programs.
Landlords also identified barriers and hesitations to participating in voucher programs. Some landlords felt that they should not be responsible for paying for apartment repairs mandated by the program’s unit inspections, especially when tenants were responsible for the damage. Some felt there was too much paperwork and not enough technical support from program staff. Finally, nonparticipating landlords worried about tenant quality, including fears that voucher recipients would not take care of their property and would be a threat to the neighborhood. The authors note that these fears were largely rooted in racist stereotypes.
BHMP has taken steps to overcome many of these barriers. In conversations with landlords, BHMP staff debunk commonly held stereotypes of voucher holders by providing detailed information about the types of assistance provided to tenants and the infrequency of property damage. Staff has also worked to simplify paperwork and communication processes by appointing one point of contact for all landlords, creating a customized online landlord portal, and limiting property inspections to once every two years.
The researchers conclude with additional policy recommendations not yet implemented by BRHP. These include streamlining administrative and communication processes by creating a 24-hour landlord hotline, upgrading technical systems, and conducting routine landlord outreach and information sharing. The researchers recommend damage payment incentives, a system where landlords can receive supplemental program funds if the cost of property damage exceeds the security deposit. This could help quell apprehensions about property damage and high-cost repairs for landlords that are hesitant to participate. Finally, the researchers note the importance of enforcing and expanding source-of-income protection laws, which make it illegal for landlords to discriminate based on voucher receipt.
The report can be found at: https://bit.ly/37g21jL