LONG BEACH, Calif. — This month the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded more than 19,000 Housing Choice Vouchers to almost 2,000 public housing agencies across the country. Some of the biggest allocations came to Southern California, including Long Beach.
This boost comes at a time when homelessness is increasing. These vouchers should ensure market-rate housing that is affordable for lower-income families, but it’s not so straightforward. Landlords are not always eager to accept these renters with housing vouchers, but there are people trying to persuade them.
Property manager Cristina Garcia personally inspects the apartments under her care.
“That is going above and beyond, but I look at, when I move somebody in, I look at as if I was moving in. What do I want? What do I see? How would I feel comfortable?” Garcia said.
After years of working in the housing business, Garcia started out on her own and founded the Heart Property Management Group. At her old job, she became the expert for housing voucher issues. Also known as Section 8, this subsidized housing program allows people to pay a manageable portion of rent calculated off their current income.
Now, Garcia is convincing the property owners she works with to accept voucher holders.
“A lot of these women that we’ve helped house were living in their cars, living at hotels, and they just need a chance,” Garcia said.
Garcia is a single parent and a renter herself, so this is personal work. Every single one of her employees is a working mom too, including Priscilla Raya.
“She helps everyone and anyone that comes in contact with her, whether it be the tenants, whether it be us behind the scenes that are helping her,” Raya said.
Housing Operations Officer Anna Topolewski at the Housing Authority of the city of Long Beach says kiosks installed at multiple locations will make it a little easier for voucher recipients to submit paperwork and do everything that’s required of them, but it’s the other piece of this—the landlord side that concerns her. Hundreds have vouchers, but can’t find a home.
“The way to end homelessness is to house people. It’s very simple, but true, and so I think that we are doing our best at the Housing Authority,” Topolewski said.
Garcia’s business is less than two years old and she’s already responsible for over 400 units. Almost a quarter of the homes under her care are rented to voucher holders and there’s room for more.
“On this website right now? I would say probably about maybe about four vacancies right now that could be filled with a Section 8 participant,” Garcia said while scrolling through the available apartments her company has posted online.
The Housing Authority of the city of Long Beach says they currently work with about 2,600 landlords who accept housing vouchers, but they really need to reach more. They even offer monetary signing bonuses for those who accept voucher holders. Interested landlords can call 562-570-5372 or email HAfirstname.lastname@example.org.