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Section 8: Info for Tenants

Hello, fair readers. 

As promised, I'm back with information for tenants about Section 8 vouchers (or housing choice vouchers, to use the proper terminology). I'm thrilled to be writing about this, because we get so so so many questions about how to get these vouchers, how to use these vouchers, how to find housing with these vouchers and how to deal with problems while holding a voucher. 

As a recap, Section 8 vouchers allow a low-income person or family to pay 30ish% of their income as rent to a landlord, and a housing authority pays the rest with funding from HUD. It's amazing when it works, devastating when it doesn't, and all the in-betweens tend to be pretty confusing. 

I was lucky enough to get some guidance from the City of Madison's Marketing Outreach Coordinator, and an attorney at Legal Action, and I'd love to share the fruits of my labors. This week's post is for tenants (last week's post was for landlords!). Next week, I'll address Section 8 terminations.

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Section 8 for Landlords

Dear Land of the Internets,

I have missed writing to you. I have written many of the blog posts on this website, and haven't been in this space since the summer of 2016. I've been in the background here at the TRC, and I have to say, I'm ready to have a voice again. 

GET READY WORLD.

To start this new era, I want to talk about Section 8 vouchers. These vouchers, known as housing choice vouchers to those who wish to be politically correct, allow a low-income person or family to pay 30ish% of their income as rent to a landlord, and a housing authority pays the rest. It's a great program, when it works - tenants can live where they wish, landlords have guaranteed payments from a housing authority. Win-win, right? But there are many flaws - there are never enough vouchers for all the people that really need them, and the governing policies can be pretty opaque. 

Additionally, and weirdly, it seems like landlords have super different perspectives on these vouchers. Some say: NEVER (hint: not super legal in Dane County). Some say: ALL I WANT IS TO MAKE HOUSING AVAILABLE TO LOW INCOME PEOPLE. Some say: I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH INFORMATION. (All are emphatic). So, this one's for you, guys. 

I was lucky enough to get some guidance from the City of Madison's Marketing Outreach Coordinator, and an attorney at Legal Action, and I'd love to share the fruits of my labors. This week's post is for landlords. In the coming weeks, we'll address Section 8 for tenants, and Section 8 terminations. 

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TRC is Once Again Serving Dane County

On July 1, 2017, the Tenant Resource Center resumed housing counseling services for communities in Dane County outside of Madison, ending a service gap created by 2015 county budget cuts. Thanks to additional funding, the tenant rights institution has added staff, increased their call capacity, and are now able to help all of Wisconsin.

Services restored to all of Dane County: 

Housing counseling. The Tenant Resource Center gives free information on rental rights and responsibilities to tenants and landlords statewide including all of Dane County. Anyone interested in counseling can call, email or visit the office. The Tenant Resource Center has sample letters, forms, and brochures on most major topics and provides services in Spanish and Hmong.

Mediation. The Tenant Resource Center administers a program where certified mediators facilitate negotiations between tenants and landlords during Small Claims Court eviction hearings. These agreements are often payment plans that allow the tenant to remain in the apartment or move-out dates that give tenants time to arrange a new home. If the terms of the agreement are met, the tenant will not have an eviction on his or her court record. Mediated agreements have the same enforceability as those written by the court commissioner. 

Education and outreach. The Tenant Resource Center provides outreach and education through local workshops and seminars. The organization’s experienced presenters give informative talks around Wisconsin, are available for media interviews and participate in community coalitions. The Tenant Resource Center also provides brochures and teaches a biannual Housing Law Seminar series for landlords and service providers.

The Tenant Resource Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting positive relationships between tenants and landlords throughout Wisconsin. The Tenant Resource Center provides information and referrals, education about rental rights and responsibilities and access to conflict resolution, empowering the community to obtain and maintain quality affordable housing.

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City Info on Downtown Moving Days

Moving on the Isthmus is about to begin - not everyone moves on August 15th - but most do!  Here's some information you may need!

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The Big Share is Tomorrow!

Hello out there! Do you know what's on March 7th? Tomorrow is the Big Share,* and it is nothing less than the TRC's goofiest day of the year

Here are the basics. Tomorrow, we will be:
- Posting Very Silly Pictures all day on our Facebook page. TRC Staff takes over our Facebook page, and badly photoshops me into all kinds of crazy situations. (Some previews are already on Facebook, including this gem, in which I was apparently a world-famous singer in 1985). And it's not just me getting badly photoshopped into world events! Other well-known Madison faces will be appear - just keep tabs on our Facebook page.
- Giving away prizes each hour to those who donate on our Big Share page. Starting at 6am tomorrow, ending at 11:59pm, we will give away prizes hour by hour in the 13 designated Big Share Hours. For each hour, we will draw the name of one or more TRC donor (every sized donation counts!), and that person will get a prize. Keep track of it all on Facebook, and donate through the Big Share to get credit
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Aw, Shucks

Hello, lovelies.  

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For Landlords: Screening Applicants Based on Criminal History

Hey Y'all! HUD put out some new guidelines about using criminal history in housing transactions, and it looks like a big departure from where Wisconsin's been headed, lately. I'm walking through it today, on behalf of landlords trying to sort out what's what.

On June 1, I did this for tenants! Here's the second part, for the landlords. 

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For Tenants: New HUD Rules About Criminal History

Hello, Best Internet Beloveds! Long time, no write. Let's change that, shall we? And how about we start it off with a good 'ole two-parter.

In April, HUD came out with some "guidance" (their word) about using criminal history to screen applicants. When landlords use criminal history when choosing tenants, HUD says that's likely not legal. HUD has a whole thought process about why that is, and since we're not attorneys, we'll break the logic down for you, and you can draw your own conclusions.

This post is about how these rules might impact tenants, who may be living in housing or searching for housing, and the next part in this series will be for landlords, and how they might navigate these new rules.

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You Blew Us Away!

Last week, we had an amazing fundraiser. In order to understand what these mean to us, you have to imagine the scene around here. Clients tell us such rough stories (sitting in the inbox right now: "we are a family of five and have no bathroom," "we've been given a non-renewal notice and can't find new housing," "we can't make it work," "we're about to be homeless"). Such sadness. Such inhumane conditions out there.

And our amazing staff and volunteers - we listen, we give available solutions, we help draft letters. We come up with strategies in impossible situations. We are sad, too. We fight, often off the clock, against these inhumane conditions. On a lot of days, it can feel like a losing battle.

But last Friday. Woah, you guys. Last Friday. So many people. Such joy in being a community together. I'm getting teary just writing about it. 

Our Iron Chef event on April 1 was the best we've ever had. The food was AH-MAY-ZING. The chefs and judges worked so hard, and besides that, are truly cool folks. We earned more than we've ever earned, and it made us feel like you guys want us to keep fighting. It felt really good to hear that. 

Here are the incredible people who made this event possible:

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New Tenant Landlord Laws Summarized (Eff. 3/2/16)

This is the 5th change to tenant landlord laws in Wisconsin in 4.5 years. We at the Tenant Resource Center are exhausted from trying to keep up . . . the governor passed the bill on 2/29, it was published on 3/1 and went into effect on 3/2. The laws became available electronically on 3/17 (last Thursday) and here's our latest and greatest summary.

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