Section 8 Vouchers Can Help Low-Income Renters, But Finding Housing Is Difficult
Reuben Sumpter has lived in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh for decades. At first he lived in an apartment tower that served low-income people. That high-rise, the East Mall, was demolished. Even in the early 2000s, when the neighborhood’s revival was just starting to show, there were concerns that fewer affordable units would replace the dense high rise.
Sumpter moved to Penn Plaza, another complex in East Liberty that accepted his housing choice voucher. Also known as Section 8, the vouchers help low-income people secure housing by paying a share of their rent in the private market.
Now, the owners of Penn Plaza are redeveloping that property. Sumpter has to be out by the end of February. The most important thing for him as he searches for an apartment is location: he wants to stay in East Liberty. He has Parkinson’s and his doctor is there. The church where he helps out is there, too.
“I know my place, know my way around,” he said. “It’s very important because people that know me they keep the golden rule … we help each other.”
He’s been searching for nearly three months and so far has come up empty-handed.
Sumpter is not alone. In Pittsburgh, just 25 percent of voucher recipients end up using their vouchers successfully.