TEMPE, AZ — Between ASU students and rapidly rising prices, renters in Tempe have stiff competition for housing. It becomes even more of a challenge for people with low incomes who are using a Housing Choice Voucher, formerly referred to as Section 8.
The voucher guarantees a portion of rent will be paid by US Housing Urban and Development (HUD) via local housing authorities.
But many landlords refuse to take them, and tenants only have 60 days to use the voucher before it expires.
In 2018 Tempe began trying to reverse that problem by hiring housing navigator Tina Van. Her focus is specifically on recruiting landlords and matching them with tenants who have a voucher.
"I’ll walk them through the whole process until the tenant actually signs the lease, gets the keys, move in until they receive that first payment,” Van told ABC15.
In 2021 Tempe Housing Authority received 1,216 vouchers. 82 voucher holders are still looking for housing. And an additional 501 are on the waiting list to receive one.
Since 2018 Van says she has placed 260 tenants with landlords.
In January Channel Gaines’ family became one of them.
She, her three children, and her boyfriend were having a hard time finding a place not only because of the voucher but an eviction.
“They (potential landlords) didn't want to hear why we got the eviction, none of that. It was just no,” Gaines said.
Those are two strikes against a tenant with most landlords, but Van reached out to brand new landlord Mark Westfall-Klim and went to bat for them.
Westfall-Klim and his wife have owned their Tempe townhouse for ten years and said after a recent move had been considering participating in as a housing choice landlord.
Once Van got involved, they got on board.
“We’ve got great tenants who, you know, they're almost like family to us as well,” he said.
“We love this place. And we love our landlord,” Gaines told ABC15.
Every situation doesn’t have such a happy ending, but Van said it’s her mission to try.
“Everyone deserves safe, affordable, stable housing. And the families that are on the program is like any other family anywhere," she said.
Tempe is slated to get additional vouchers as a result of America Rescue Plan dollars.
The city announced on Friday that it would be opening its waiting list on Monday, August 16 at 8 a.m. and will close on August 22 at midnight. Once the list opens applicants can find more information here.
Property owners interested in the Housing Choice program can find more information here.