City housing officials plan to roll out a series of incentive grants meant to draw more residential landlords into the federal Section 8 program as it affects Glendale, with help from a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Additionally, the Glendale Housing Division will employ a portion of the funds to design and implement an online portal for those in the program to use, with the goal of improving service rendered to the landlords and their tenants. The initiatives were prepared after the city received $384,357 in a second round of HUD funding stemming from the CARES Act.
The Glendale City Council approved the measures during a meeting with the city’s Housing Authority on Tuesday. The four grants are designed to either spur new landlords to enter into Section 8 contracts, return to the program — aimed at serving lower-income renters — after past participation or reward their continuing participation.
“There have been times where it’s been challenging to obtain new landlords onto the program and years where we’ve really had to rely on our existing portfolio of landlords to continue,” explained Peter Zovak, Glendale deputy director of housing and assistant director of community development. “But this is one of those years — more so because of COVID — we’ve seen an increase in interest in the Section 8 program by a new host of landlords who are, we feel, primarily interested because of the fact that the Housing Authority and its clients during this time of COVID have not defaulted on any of their rental payments.”
One grant would issue a $2,000 bonus to a landlord who joins the city’s list of Section 8 options for the first time, while another would bestow a $1,500 bonus on a landlord who rejoins after leaving within the prior 12 months. For the steadfast members, there will be a $1,000 bonus for taking on a new Section 8 contract.
The fourth grant would pay up to $500 to make up for pro rata rent that would otherwise be paid during the period of time a prospective tenant signs a Section 8 contract but has to wait for city officials to inspect and certify the residence.
“There’s a little bit of a lag time,” Zovak said. “For some agencies, that lag time — we’ve heard criticism of other agencies — could be months. We’re very fortunate in that staff here is able to process requests for inspections typically within a two-week time frame, more so within a week time frame.”
Zovak indicated that, but for the HUD funding, Measure S tax revenues would likely have been the funding source for these grants, which began development months ago.
Up to 160 landlords could benefit from these grant bonuses, Zovak said; there are currently 1,159 landlords in the city’s Section 8 program, and the city is able to fund up to 1,592 vouchers within a fiscal year, give or take.
In anticipation of the HUD funding, Zovak added, the Housing Department has already begun the review process to see whether 150 applicants on the Section 8 waiting list can qualify for vouchers. He said “word is out there” that landlords can use Section 8 as a stable revenue stream during the COVID-19 pandemic, since many out-of-work tenants cannot always pay their rent.
“We’ve seen an increased interest in the volume of calls that we have received from those landlords; we are now trying to pair that increase in interest by landlords by pulling people off the Section 8 waiting list now,” he said. “We’re hoping that the timing of those applicants receiving their vouchers along with our advertising will get them to be able to lease up much faster than they’ve previously been able to lease up.”
Another chunk of this funding will help pay for the development of the web portal, which Zovak noted had been in talks for years.
“Right now, staff is operating and running the software system for the Section 8 program,” he explained. “By opening it up to a public portal, we’ll be able to have tenants and landlords operate and communicate with the system. Thus they could be able to input certain data from their home online rather than coming into the office. It’s an upgrade we’ve been thinking about for a number of years, and with the opportunity of additional funding to pay for it, this is what staff is proposing.”
These dollars need to be expended within the year or will otherwise have to be returned to the federal government.
The proposals gained full approval of the council on Tuesday and were praised for their thoughtfulness.
“I’m glad that we are giving them a bonus and we’re incentivizing new landlords,” Councilwoman Paula Devine said. “I hope that this works and that we’ll get better services to the tenants and the landlords.”
Laura Parazian, a member of the Housing Authority, added: “This program, I believe, will invite more of the landlords to [Section 8].”