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Another View of Housing Vouchers

Friday, April 22, 2005; Page A16

Debbi Wilgoren's April 11 Metro story, "Landlords Accused of Rejecting Vouchers," did not consider the effects of the voucher program on those who live in neighborhoods that have large numbers of participants in the subsidized-housing program. While it is deplorable for a landlord to discriminate on the basis of race or religion, the number of units that can be subsidized in an apartment building or townhouse complex should be limited.

My wife and I moved from our affordable townhouse in Montgomery County last fall after multiple homes in our neighborhood went from being owner-occupied to rentals with absent landlords, many of whom participated in the Housing Choice Voucher program.

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Needing assistance with the rent doesn't make someone a bad tenant, and most of my new neighbors were cordial. But some threw trash and cigarettes in front of my house, drank with friends on the front steps and blasted music at all hours. They did not seem to take pride in their homes and neighborhood. Yes, they probably benefited from living in a decent neighborhood, but I surely did not.

The Washington area's more affordable neighborhoods, such as Montgomery Village, will keep declining if the Housing Choice Voucher program continues as it is. Limits should be placed on the percentage of subsidized tenants in a neighborhood to protect established neighborhoods and hold landlords -- such as the ones mentioned in Ms. Wilgoren's story -- accountable to offer some units to the poor.



I own and rent condominiums throughout Northern Virginia, and I have had bad experiences with the government's Section 8 voucher program. Consequently, I avoid rental applicants who wish to use vouchers.

A case last summer in Arlington County illustrates my point. County officials first made me fill out a four-page application, requiring private information unrelated to my status as a property owner and landlord. Next, I was instructed that I had to add a multi-page government addendum to the standard lease that I had been using for 20 years.

Then I was told someone would have to inspect the property "in about a week" before a decision could be made. Finally, officials told me they thought the rent was too high and that I would have to come down $50 a month. If I accepted all the terms and conditions, the Section 8 renter could move in, and "in a couple of months" I would get my first rent check from the county.

I rejected the deal. Two days later I rented the condominium to someone else at the full price.



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