JPA hears presentation about Section 8 Rental Assistance Program

The Jamaica Pond Association (JPA) met virtually on September 14, where they heard a presentation from business owner Nicole Gunn about her proposal to open a smoothie and energizing tea cafe called Cada Dia Nutrition at 7 Burroughs Street. The group also heard from Rachel Nagin, Director of Policy and Research in City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George’s office, about the Section 8 rental assistance program. 

This proposal was previously heard at the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) Public Service Committee meeting and reported on by the Gazette. 

Concerns from the JPA regarding this proposal included ensuring that trash will be properly disposed of, as well as environmental concerns about cups and straws. 

Gunn said that her cups will be clear with a blue sticker that says “Cada Dia” on it. She ensured that there would be “multiple phases of cleaning up” out side the location, as is currently done at the South Boston location of this business.

“It is my cup, even if it goes all the way to another neighborhood,” Gunn said. “I will always feel responsible for where that ends up.” She said she is working out which waste company to use to make sure trash gets taken away from the building an appropriate number of times per week. Someone also suggested that the city include more trash receptacles on Centre St. that would benefit every business as it can be hard to find a place to throw trash away while walking down the street, they said. 

She also said she will look into a biodegradable cup, and while she said she does feel that she needs a straw, she is looking into paper straws, though she doesn’t believe that will be the answer as they disintegrate too quickly once placed in liquid. Instead, she said she might do a promotion where people can bring their own reusable straws and she could sell them in the store as well.

The JPA voted not to oppose this proposal. 

SECTION 8 RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM PRESENTATION

Nagin and David Gleich of the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) provided some information about the Section 8 program, as well as how landlords can become more involved in renting to Section 8 voucher holders. 

 Nagin said that 5,000 BPS students are currently homeless, and that only 23 percent of homeless children in Boston end up in a shelter, and those who do, stay there for an average of 18 months.

She said that most of the kids who are homeless or housing insecure are doubled up, meaning there are more people in a unit than there are rooms, which has become a “big problem” in the face of COVID-19, she said.  She said that more funding is needed, especially at the federal level, but Mayor Walsh is working on getting more funding. 

“Section 8” refers to the eighth section of the Housing Act of 1937, Nagin said, and although it is illegal to not rent to a Section 8 holder, it is still happening across the city and beyond.

“This led the mayor to announce in January at the State of the City the creation of 1000 new vouchers,” she said, adding that the pandemic “prompted” her office, along with the Boston Housing Authority and others “to team up to find more landlords who would be willing to rent to Section 8 holders.” 

Gleich said that BHA is currently looking to recruit more landlords, as the “discrimination that tenants are facing is really a tremendous burden.” 

He said that a result of the discrimination is a high concentration of our voucher holders in only a few neighborhoods in the city. There are about “14,000 tenant based families that use our program,” he said. 

He said that through the Leading the Way Home program and the integration of technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, the BHA committed to leasing 1000 families with children in the Boston Public Schools over the course of the year.

“Right now, it looks like we’re on target to do that,” he said. Not all families are leasing in Boston, but they were either from the area or had children enrolled in the Boston Public Schools He said that so far, “well over 700 vouchers” have been issued so far. 

He explained the process that tenants go through to receive housing through the Section 8 program. He said that a tenant receives paperwork from the BHA once they are determined to be eligible, and once they find an apartment, the landlord files out the paperwork and returns it to the BHA, where a direct deposit account is set up. There is an inspection that “ensures safety and security for the family,” he said, and then once the apartment is approved, the landlord can use their own lease and 30 percent of the tenant’s monthly adjusted income is used for rent and utilities, and BHA will pay the rest of the rent. 

He said that landlords should know that the “majority of families who are voucher holders are coming from supportive housing programs,” and a shelter would typically provide stabilization services.

He said that due to the need for housing in Boston and across the country, there are not enough vouchers available for every eligible family.

He said that the BHA tries “our best to reduce barriers for landlords during the process.” 

If a tenant has a decrease in income, they are required to report that decrease, and families are also required to come in annually for a recertification. He said that if someone has an increase in income between their annual certification, the rent is not adjusted, so it gives people time to save up some money.

JPA Chair Rosemary Jones asked if there was any support for things like furniture, moving trucks, and security deposits for Section 8 holders. 

Nagin said that the program is “not perfect and we can always use more funding for those kinds of programs,” but the City’s Department of Neighborhood Development and other departments have programs to help out families who need it, especially families that were previously homeless.

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