Section 8 Community Forum draws big crowd

Nearly 100 attended the Section 8 Community Forum.

Nearly 100 attended the Section 8 Community Forum.

PALMDALE – Nearly 100 residents packed the Larry Chimbole Cultural Center Thursday for an update on the lawsuit against the Cities of Lancaster and Palmdale.

“Both the Lancaster and the Palmdale City Councils have been explicit about saying that those two cities want to discourage people in the Section 8 voucher program from residency in these two communities,” said Catherine Lhamon, Director of Impact Litigation at Public Counsel. “That’s unlawful, that needs to end, and the goal of the lawsuit is to make it stop.”

Lhamon said the Cities of Palmdale and Lancaster were taking aggressive negative action against participants in the Section 8 program that is “out of wack” with the rest of the County’s practices for enforcement.  Lhamon read off compelling statistics to support this claim, saying:

  • Families are 2 ½ times more likely to be investigated if they live in Lancaster and 3.2 times more likely to be investigated if they live in Palmdale, than if they live any where else in the County.
  • Families are 4.2 times more likely to be referred for termination in Lancaster and 5.6 times more likely to be referred for termination if they live in Palmdale than the rest of the County.
  • Countywide, the termination rate for the program is 1 in 114 families, but in Palmdale, that rate is 1 in 12 and in Lancaster, that rate is 1 in 21.
  • In Palmdale and in Lancaster, sheriffs accompanied housing investigators 70% of the time, while in the rest of the county, they accompanied housing investigators 8% of the time.
Catherine Lhamon speaks with Jacqueline Franklin.

Catherine Lhamon speaks with Jacqueline Franklin.

“The experience of having somebody come and check your home to find out if you’re complying with the rules is dramatically different if you live in the Antelope Valley than if you lived anywhere else in the County,” Lhamon said. “It’s unsafe, it’s scary, it’s intimidating and it makes people feel unwelcome. That’s also unlawful”.

Lhamon said the lawsuit was filed in June 2011 after months and years of trying to negotiate with the Cities.

“Unfortunately neither Lancaster nor Palmdale was willing to engage in that kind of negotiation with us… so we had to file a lawsuit against those two cities.” She said.

By contrast, she says the County of Los Angeles engaged in a 90-day moratorium to hold funding for additional investigators, to allow for some time to resolve the issues.

The County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to decide whether to continue the moratorium on additional investigative activity on September 20th at a regularly scheduled meeting. The meeting will also involve an open session discussion about the merits and the wisdom of increasing the moratorium.

Lhamon said should the Board of Supervisors decide to lift the moratorium, the County could find itself in the same position as Lancaster and Palmdale.

“If the Board of Supervisors is unable to continue negotiating with us, an option for us is to add the County to the lawsuit and to proceed with the litigation with three defendants — the county and the two cities,” Lhamon said.

  11 comments for “Section 8 Community Forum draws big crowd

  1. shanetta
    August 27, 2012 at 1:00 am

    Well some of us whom are receiving the section 8 assistance, didn’t or don’t have a clue that we don’t have to sign the contract. I know I was unaware of the right to refuse.

  2. Stinger
    September 2, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Try to get this simple fact through your skulls: Section 8 does NOT have any more crime than any other rental housing.

    Is there a problem with having a large amount of Section 8 rentals? YES. Is it due to increased crime? NO. The problem with an excess of Section 8 housing has to do with the affordability of rentals for those who are NOT on Section 8 as the effect of Section 8 causes the rates to go up on all rental housing in the region.

    Showing up ‘gestapo style’ with boatloads of law enforcement for a simple compliance check is, in fact, a violation of the laws surrounding the usage of Section 8 vouchers. It also constitutes a violation of the voucher-holder’s constitutional rights agains unreasonable search and seizure as it is, in effect, a search of one’s person, home, and personal effects without a search warrant required for such activity. Compliance checks were never meant to be warrantless ‘fishing expeditions’ for every local law enforcement agency.

    • Mo
      September 2, 2011 at 7:14 pm

      Well said stinger. And I like to point out that Section 8 doesn’t make one less of an American. When on government assistance, one doesn’t have less rights. Just more responsibility’s.

      And to all those who have had a bad experience with “Section 8” renters? Chances are they weren’t on Section 8. As stated at the Lancaster special meeting the day after the BOS voted the 90 day moratorium, HUD verified that out of 900+ compliance complaints against Section 8 renters, over 70% turned out to be none Section 8.

  3. Jessica
    September 2, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Section 8 is a wonderful program that is a privilge “NOT A RIGHT” to have. These recipiants are required to participate and grant unlimited access for any and ALL inspections. IF they are in compliance with the rules and regulations of the program there should/would be no issue. As far as police being present at the time of the inspection, it is within the inspector rights to have an escort or police present at the time of their inspection if needed. IF these participants are alleging force or intimidation during the said inspections, I am sure these alleged actions were not wothout merit. I have been to the Section 8 office and have personally seen participants yell, scream and curse at the workers because they were not in agreement with something or another. 70% of these allegation come from the Black and Hispanic community BECAUSE the majority (87%) of the Antelope Valley Section 8 participants ARE in fact Black or Latino. If they do not want to comply with the program rules, get off of subsidized house and pay 100% of your rent!

    • Stinger
      September 2, 2011 at 6:32 pm

      “These recipiants are required to participate and grant unlimited access for any and ALL inspections.”

      Sorry, Jessica, but that is not accurate. Compliance checks are certainly a part of the program, but one does not waive every single constitutional right that they have when they sign up for this program. The issue of this lawsuit is not about compliance checks, it is about the illegal warrantless ‘fishing expeditions’ by agencies inappropriately involved in this practice and the public demonization of persons in the Section 8 program.

  4. johnHoward
    September 2, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Section 8 participation is a legally binding contract between the local government and the individual. If either party violates the terms of that contract they can be held responsible. Not using drugs and allowing inspections are some of the terms of this contract. If you don’t like the consequences (when you fail to comply to them) then don’t agree to the contract in the first place.

    • Common Sense
      September 6, 2011 at 11:42 am

      Well said john! You receive the “Common Sense Award” for your post!

      • Mo
        September 6, 2011 at 12:17 pm

        Problem is, that police handcuffing you and throwing you to the floor in front of your children NEVER was part of the contract. And when nothing is found after a 6 hr search? Telling the inhabitants of the house “we’ll be back” is harassment and intimidation.

        Section 8 recipients DIDN’T give up their rights as Americans. They just agreed to more responsibility’s, not less rights!

  5. William
    September 2, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    “Impact Litigation at Public Counsel”???? Does it have any authority to ‘negotiate’ with the cities or the sheriff’s department regarding fraud investigations? Just what are they negotiating?

    Were people who were investigated actually found to be engaged in fraud or were they innocent?

    Is there a list of people who have complained of discrimination or is it just a suspicion? Are they parties to the suit?

    Maybe the rest of the county is being more lax in enforcing Section 8 rules.

    The accusations that I’ve read in the Antelope Valley Press seem vague and not specific instances of discrimination of a particular person or persons and the outcome of the investigations.

    Of course, the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster want to strictly enforce the rules for Section 8 vouchers to prevent and stop fraud from continuing. Is it not a fact that some Section 8 rentals have problems that affect the neighbors such as drug dealing, more occupants than allowed, loud parties, unkept yards, etc. in addition to being fraud.

    Have innocent Section 8 recipients been kicked out of their homes?

    There is something fishy about this lawsuit as far as details of specific cases of discrimination. As for discrimination, it is obvious that if 70% of the recipients of Section 8 vouchers are black of Hispanic, it’s statistically likely that ~70% of the investigations and/or cases of fraud will be black or Hispanic. I hope no one is suggesting that the numbers should be different than that.

    I watched a hearing of the Lancaster City council questioning the people in charge of the Section 8 program and it seemed that they count every complaint of Section 8 fraud in their stats even if the house is NOT Section 8 which is absurd. Ron Smith told him that upon receiving a complaint, it should only take a few seconds on the computer to determine if the house was Section 8 and not count it as a Section 8 investigation but the guy looked perplexed by that simple notion. Plus, the guy didn’t seem to have a more accurate breakdown of the number of complaints of only Section 8 houses. What a joke.

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