Save 75% - Only $49.99 for 1 full year! digitalPLUS subscription offer ends 12/1
NewsOpinionReaders Respond

Mossburg misrepresents research on housing vouchers

FamilyHousing and Urban PlanningInterior PolicyDiscrimination

In her April 23 column, “Forcing landlords to accept vouchers won't help the poor,” Marta H. Mossburg quoted me as saying that laws prohibiting landlords to accept Section 8 vouchers “exacerbate” the problem of finding housing for the poor. That’s wrong. When Ms. Mossburg interviewed me for her column, I was clear: banning housing discrimination based on source of income will help increase housing options for the poor.

I told her about fieldwork I’ve done with families in Baltimore; Mobile, Ala.; and New Haven, Stamford and Norwalk, Conn., where I repeatedly heard about landlords refusing to rent to parents who were trying to secure housing. These experiences are demoralizing for families and discourage them from seeking housing in neighborhoods with less violent crime, more space to play outside and schools with better teachers.

Ms. Mossburg also writes, based on my statement that vouchers are scarce in Baltimore, that increasing these opportunities won’t help the poor. That is simply illogical. Ms. Mossburg distorted and inverted my statements to serve the purpose of her article. That’s a disservice to the readers of The Sun.

Housing for low-income families has historically taken a back seat to policies focused on inequality in education and health. Housing assistance, in the form of housing vouchers, is in short supply — only one out of four families needing housing support receives it. Millions of poor renters spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing. And this deficit has been allowed to persist despite decades of research that shows the significance of shelter, stability and community for child and family well-being.

We know that neighborhood quality, especially neighborhood violence, predicts children’s educational achievement and the physical and mental health of parents. And we know that the social class of children’s classmates predicts educational achievement gains. Housing policies are about more than housing; increasing access to safer communities with better schools can be powerfully leveraged as education policy and health policy too.

Despite these benefits, poor families who receive housing assistance often struggle to find homes in low-crime neighborhoods with good schools. In part, this is due to a shortage of affordable housing in affluent neighborhoods, but this challenge is also compounded by the reality that property owners may, at their discretion, refuse to rent to otherwise-qualified tenants based solely on the source of their income — not whether someone can pay, but rather where that money comes from.

To support such discrimination means we must believe that it should matter to a property owner if a tenant works at Walmart or Target, or is living on a trust fund. At a basic fairness level, this is manifestly unjust. If you can pay the rent and meet other basic rental requirements, why should it matter where your rent money originates? To suggest that prospective landlords need to discriminate based on source of income is rooted in stereotypical judgments of the “types of people” who receive housing subsidies. That’s wrong.

It’s a mystery how anyone could mistake my support for a ban on source of income discrimination as opposition to it. But much less of a mystery lies in the decades of research — the facts — that buttress housing policy debates today. Those facts are clear and not open to manipulation: Our housing policies need improving, and creating more housing choices can help families raise their children in safer communities and higher performing schools.

Stefanie DeLuca, Baltimore

The writer is an associate professor in the Johns Hopkins University Department of Sociology.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
FamilyHousing and Urban PlanningInterior PolicyDiscrimination
  • Fix Section 8 and landlords will step up
    Fix Section 8 and landlords will step up

    Recent letters to the editor have focused on the reality that people deserving of Section 8 assistance need more landlords to open up their homes and apartments to Section 8 so that the housing poor will more quickly and easily obtain the housing that they need.

  • Section 8 is no burden to landlords
    Section 8 is no burden to landlords

    I recently read the letter James Gatton wrote to The Sun in response to Stefanie Deluca's letter to the editor. Mr . Gatton's letter ("Section 8 housing is a nightmare for landlords," May 12) could be no further from the truth.

  • Pass the Home Act
    Pass the Home Act

    I strongly agree with Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc. director Robert J. Strupp that all Marylanders should have an equal opportunity to live in decent, safe housing with "access to transportation, jobs and safe, academically achieving schools" ("State shouldn't let landlords discriminate," May...

  • Section 8 housing is a nightmare for landlords
    Section 8 housing is a nightmare for landlords

    In a recent letter to the editor, Johns Hopkins professor Stefanie DeLuca recently suggested that many landlords refuse to rent to people with Section 8 housing vouchers because they are unfairly prejudiced against those prospective tenants ("Mossburg misrepresents research on vouchers," May...

  • State shouldn't let landlords discriminate
    State shouldn't let landlords discriminate

    Rejecting tenants because they pay with Section 8 vouchers is unfair and furthers segregation

  • Ferguson: Is there justice for all?
    Ferguson: Is there justice for all?

    While I can, I go on hoping a majority of the grand jury in Ferguson votes to indict Officer Darren Wilson ("Far from Missouri, Baltimore readies for Ferguson ruling," Nov. 24). If they fail in that, the obvious choice is for everyone to go out and protest. The police in most of the country...

  • Praying for peace in Ferguson
    Praying for peace in Ferguson

    As we brace for the Ferguson grand jury to make a decision, there's a simple old adage that states, "God save the Queen."

  • Ferguson tweet shows poor judgment
    Ferguson tweet shows poor judgment

    In the case described in "Baltimore Police tweet about Ferguson draws criticism" (Nov. 21), while it is true that First Amendment Rights are important and this sergeant is entitled to her opinion, I question her judgment in opining on an incident not involving the Baltimore City Police...