Section 8 freedoms

Opinion: Editorials

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Beginning this week it will be illegal for a landlord in suburban Cook County to deny housing to a person solely because they present a Section 8 housing voucher. That is good and fair and overdue. We commend the Cook County board for amending the county's Human Rights Ordinance to make this change.

We recognize that mentioning the federally funded Section 8 program can be a dog whistle for some and that it brings out all manner of hateful and ignorant speech and a whole lot of anecdotal horror stories.

Here's what we know though: Good landlords can and should continue to actively screen prospective tenants. Those with criminal histories, poor credit and bad references from previous landlords are a bad risk, whether they have a voucher or not. Reject them. There are good reasons evicting tenants isn't easy, but Section 8 tenants can be booted and sometimes deserve to be.

But as Ed Solan, executive director of the Oak Park Housing Authority, told us on Monday, "Having a voucher is a godsend in this economy," and very few people abuse the privilege. He told us the local housing authority has 480 Section 8 vouchers allocated by federal agencies. With federal funding cutbacks, 30 of those vouchers are currently unfunded. Given the state of debate in D.C., it is highly unlikely funding for Section 8 will be expanded anytime soon.

So while voucher holders will have more freedom in where they seek housing under the changed county law, there aren't any additional people being granted vouchers. If anything, over time Oak Park might see a somewhat smaller number of Section 8 tenants choosing the village as home.

Time to take some deep breaths.

Reader Comments

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Posted: August 13th, 2013 9:22 AM

I don't have an opinion on the topic, but I do have an opinion on lame editorial writing "We recognize that mentioning the federally funded Section 8 program can be a dog whistle for some and that it brings out all manner of hateful and ignorant speech and a whole lot of anecdotal horror stories." Translation: We are insecure in our opinion so we will upfront declare that anyone who disagrees with us is 'hateful and ignorant'

Great divide  

Posted: August 13th, 2013 2:03 AM

decline in value, safety and education occur when the level of low income tenants shift to wards being the majority. I can appreciate OP Transplants perspective, having lived in a concentrated section 8 building, but I'm willing to bet that the editor of the WJ hasn't... But experience can apparently be put down to "anecdotal horror stories". It's good to know that the WJ believes experience counts for nothing, and wishful thinking counts for everything.

Great divide  

Posted: August 13th, 2013 1:58 AM

I've already posted my "hateful and ignorant speech and a whole lot of anecdotal horror storie", as the WJ likes to put it, regarding the tenant that practically destroyed my parents house, would not pay rent, and took months to evict, but for something less "anecdotal", there is research that suggests a town can retain it's value, level of safety, quality of education etc... when up to a certain minority of low income residents are allowed to live there, while notable levels of cont...


Posted: August 12th, 2013 8:55 PM

Sec 8 wait list closed 2004 in OP. Speedway, if I do lose my job this year I won't be able to get Section 8 until 2024 by today's example. It's not a safety net. CHA has been closed since 2010. It explains interfaith- as they are an alternate outlet to Sec 8. You explain it as giving a hand up and who doesn't want to help there? Sometimes I think the pikers taking up the section 8 vouchers without intention of leaving the program harm it for those in temporary need. But longti


Posted: August 12th, 2013 7:13 PM

One entire side of my family has been on section 8 since the 60's and the results are not good. Very few have gone to college, had steady employment or broken the hard cycle of poverty. Section 8 is intended to provide a leg up but often does the opposite. The factors which led to Section 8 use are the same which lead to inability to break its cycle. This is not rocket science - work hard, have disipline, stay clean you will do fine.

OP Transplant  

Posted: August 12th, 2013 6:00 PM

I'm not rich enough or white enough for either one. But I've been poor and I've lived among the poor, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. The circumstances that lead people to be poor often also make them bad neighbors. Try living in a Sec 8 building before you preach its wonders. To someone who's lived there, you sound like a fool.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 12th, 2013 5:52 PM

Op Trans - I think you have chosen a poor community to live in. The one you seem to want is more insulated. Perhaps you would prefer Hinsdale or Winnetka or perhaps you are not rich enough for them.

OP Transplant  

Posted: August 12th, 2013 5:36 PM

LF - Whether the relationship is causative or not, the correlation stands. I don't like the correlation. You tell me the benefit to the village of increasing the number of low-income residents. Or better yet, you move into a building that has Sec 8 tenants, as I have done. But I suspect you'll leave that pleasure to someone else. Easy to tell others the right thing to do when you're insulated from the outcome. Typical OP self-righteousness.

Logical fallacy   

Posted: August 12th, 2013 5:20 PM

Correlation does not imply causation. Smoking during pregnancy is correlated to higher crime rates, too, OP Transplant. Same with frequent job changes and living in an area with tourists. That pretty much screws all of us?

OP Transplant  

Posted: August 12th, 2013 4:07 PM

Speedway - Lower income communities tend to have higher crime rates. I don't like crime, so I'd rather not intentionally lower the household income of my own community by artificially lowering housing costs. I've lived in a complex that had Sec 8 units. I didn't need to see into hearts, because i could observe the actions of my neighbors, as well as the reactions of the police. My attitudes are often guided by my personal experience, as are yours, admit it or not.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 12th, 2013 3:44 PM

to OP Trans - Being rich and well educated is not a virtue either. It is a status. Caution needs to be exercised when one uses the all or none philosophy of life. Lot of labels there. They don't let you see into someone's heart. That is where virtue lies.

OP Transplant  

Posted: August 12th, 2013 12:11 PM

Speedway - Being poor is not a sin, but it's also not a virtue. And communities with lower household incomes tend to fare poorly where education and crime statistics are concerned. I don't see how increasing the percentage of lower-income residents benefits a community.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 10th, 2013 2:35 AM

geezer who lived right behind the house I rented in a small 4 flat building. He was in his 70's and really was living with a lot of prejudice against AA"s. He needed to go to a nursing home for care but said he wouldn't go because too many "black people" there. I told him that may be true but when we die there are going to be a whole lot of them in heaven too. Hope there will be a day we see a person by who they really are and not judge them by their color or the size of their bank account.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 10th, 2013 2:29 AM

I don't know about you but one rotten egg doesn't make the whole dozen bad. The same is true for section 8. Being poor is not a sin it is an economic condition that can change at any time. We could lose our jobs and our homes or we can find a job and better ourselves and our families. Sometimes its a choice, sometimes not. I am sure it is more comfortable to live near people of like minded color, affluence, & educational but society is composed of more than that. I remember an old (cont.)


Posted: August 9th, 2013 9:18 PM

This is NOT the only thing that the Obama administration is attempting to do along these lines: Now do you guys know what Rob Breymaier is writing about in his latest letter? How does Section 8 legalities/goals differ much from this and what Mr. Breymaier is mathematically focused on?


Posted: August 9th, 2013 6:00 PM

Please get off your high horse and stop trying to sell everyone something we are NOT buying. All else equal, I would rather rent to, be next to etc. someone who is working, educated and self sufficient. It is tough reality but it is the truth.

OP Resident #957 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 9th, 2013 5:10 PM

It's apparently not enough to provide tons more affordable housing than any other suburb. We have to deal with the constant morality lectures too. Gets to be a bit much sometimes...

joe from south oak park  

Posted: August 9th, 2013 2:50 PM

I wonder how many condos in Oak Park will now be modifying their bylaws or CCR's to prevent renting of units based on the county law.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 7th, 2013 12:33 PM

Editorial Quote "We recognize that mentioning the federally funded Section 8 program can be a DOG WHISTLE for some and that it brings out all manner of HATEFUL AND IGNORANT SPEECH, and a whole lot of ANECDOTAL HORROR STORIES." The faulty word in your quote is "recognize." It seems that anytime there is criticism of Housing Dogma, the WJ wields their sharp editorial pens in an attempt to silence the posters or alert all others that there are rebels about. The nasty statements about viewpoints you do not recognize or accept have a Murdoch odor.

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