Pennsylvania Progressives Propose Forcing Landlords to Accept Housing Vouchers

Two liberal Pennsylvania lawmakers on Friday proposed a law to force all landlords to accept housing vouchers.

In a memorandum describing their legislation, State Senators Katie Muth (D-Royersford) and Carolyn Comitta (D-West Chester) insisted that America’s current “public housing crisis” demands such a measure. They cited data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition indicating that a Pennsylvanian earning the state’s minimum wage of $7.25 per hour in 2022 would need to work 94 hours weekly to pay for a one-bedroom rental or 115 hours to afford a two-bedroom apartment. A resident working 40 hours a week would, they asserted, need to earn $20.90 hourly (almost three times the state minimum wage) to pay for a typical two-bedroom apartment. 

Muth and Comitta complained that landlords may decline to rent to applicants based on their sources of income, including housing vouchers and Social Security. They cited a study conducted by the Urban Institute that found that two-thirds of landlords would not take housing vouchers. That study stated that that figure jumped to 83 percent when only low-poverty neighborhoods were observed. 

“We will soon introduce legislation that would prohibit property owners from denying housing to individuals based solely on their lawful source of income, including housing vouchers, pension payments, child support, and public assistance … ,” the senators wrote. “If a tenant has the financial ability to pay their rent in full and on time, it should not matter how they legally earn the money.”

Some analysts, however, doubt that simply relying on rent vouchers to aid those in need of housing will lead to overall beneficial outcomes and instead expect it to engender increased demand and result in higher prices for those who don’t receive housing assistance. Emily Hamilton, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center based at George Mason University wrote in a policy brief on housing affordability that the most important path toward achieving it would be liberalizing zoning rules so dwellings can be built to keep up with demand. 

Hamilton further noted that many landlords who do not accept housing vouchers make that decision because accepting them would entail an onerous regulatory burden. She proposes bestowing cash benefits on eligible recipients instead of a voucher, a move she believes would reduce discrimination against those using public assistance to pay for housing. 

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Carolyn Comitta” by Senator Carolyn Comitta. Photo “Katie Muth” by Senator Katie Muth. Background Photo “Lafayette Building and Philadelphia Bourse, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania” by Ken Lund. CC BY-SA 2.0.

 

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