After four years on the waitlist, Ella received a Housing Choice Voucher Housing Choice Voucher Program — Housing Authority of Maricopa County (maricopahousing.org). Issued by the Housing Authority of Maricopa County, the Housing Choice Voucher Program allows low-income families to rent apartments.
“When I first got the news, it was an amazing feeling, like after all I’ve been through, it’s going to be okay. This voucher means that I can give my daughter a home and I can go back to school.” However, Ella’s optimism quickly faded.
In the three months since receiving her voucher, Ella has not been able to find a landlord who will rent to her. She is limited to renting in Tempe, it must be a two-bedroom, and rent has to be under $1,500/month. There are very few housing options that meet those specifications. The properties that do meet the requirements do not want to accept housing vouchers.
During her search, Ella found one eligible apartment complex, but the landlord would not rent to her. She asked why, and they explained that it takes months for the government to pay the rent on housing vouchers. Unfortunately, they said, they cannot afford to have her rent delayed when rental prices are rising because they are saving to refurbish much of their property to attract higher-paying renters.
There are a variety of reasons landlords do not want to rent to a tenant who is using Housing Choice Vouchers. Many associate housing vouchers with less-than-ideal tenants. They expect noise, crime, and property damage. In reality, most recipients of housing vouchers are working families, elderly individuals, or people with disabilities. The stigma and prejudice surrounding government assistance limits the effectiveness of programs like housing vouchers because a recipient like Ella cannot find private landlords to accept it.
Ella is a single mother and a domestic violence survivor. With Live & Learn, she has completed a Certified Nursing Assistant certification, even while living in her car. She secured employment at a local assisted living facility. “I love the work, I love helping older people every day. It started as a job, but now it’s really my calling.” Her employer limits her to 30 hours a week of work, making it difficult for Ella to make ends meet.
Once she has housing secured, Ella plans to return to school to become a Licensed Registered Nurse. She looks forward to a career that she loves, and she knows the increased earning potential will allow her to provide a better future for her daughter.