Ghosting isn’t just a method that bad boyfriends use to break up–it’s also the most common tactic used by landlords to discriminate against people using housing vouchers.
“There are issues where [brokers] will just not show up for meetings if they see that the applicant has vouchers,” said Fannie Lou Diane.
Fannie Lou, named for the civil rights activist of the same moniker, is a housing advocate, a master’s degree holder, and is unhoused herself. She has been ghosted, asked to undergo credit checks, and forced to live in hazardous conditions, all because some landlords won’t accept housing vouchers. Every one of these tactics is a violation of her human rights.
Vouchers, like Section 8 and HASA, are rent subsidies provided by the government to help people pay rent consistently and on time. Eighty-five thousand people in New York City use Section 8 alone, but getting ahold of a voucher, which can be incredibly difficult, isn’t the biggest problem.
Even though its been illegal in NYC since 2008, and illegal statewide since 2019, discrimination against voucher holders is the most common type of housing discrimination in the city. Attorney Katherine Carroll of the New York City Human Rights Commission said this is a violation of human rights.
“It continues to be an area of discrimination where people are remarkably comfortable with putting illegal statements in writing,” she said. “I have evidence in text messages where a landlord or broker has just straight up said we don’t take vouchers.”
And it’s not just these obvious tactics. Some landlords require that a tenant make 40 times the rent to live in an apartment, but if a person qualifies for housing vouchers, they likely don’t exceed that threshold, leaving them out of luck.
At a City Hall press conference in early February, one voucher holder, Lavonne Witherspoon, detailed the harassment and unsafe conditions she faced in her most recent apartment. There, she said she faced 26 open safety violations.
“We had mice, everything that could go wrong in the apartment actually went wrong,” she said. “For some reason, when they see that you’re a voucher holder, they take advantage of that and they treat you like a piece of crap.”