Boots & Sabers

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0710, 11 Jul 23

Milwaukee County Looks at Ways to Get Landlords to Rent to Section 8 Tenants

This is a good example of the power of incentives.

“If Milwaukee County cannot use a metaphorical stick to force landlords to accept tenants with a Section 8 voucher, then we should consider offering a carrot,” Rolland told the Journal Sentinel. “At the end of the day, Milwaukee County is healthier when everybody can find a safe place to live.”


The Section 8 tenant-based Housing Choice Voucher Program was designed to help with rental assistance for low-income residents and families with a family income of no more than 50% of the median income of the county, roughly $27,396, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.




In 2018, the County Board amended the County Code of General Ordinance about fair housing and included “receipt of rental or housing assistance” as a protected class.

“Big picture: the ordinance was well-intentioned, but after five years of it being in place we can see that renters were not getting the help that they needed,” Rolland said. “And today we know that punishments for landlords are unenforceable.”

Milwaukee County tried to force landlords to rent to Section 8 tenants and it failed. In the end, whatever minimal risk a landlord takes to avoid renting to Section 8 tenants is outweighed by the potential risk of renting to them.

What the politicians fail to understand is why many landlords avoid renting to Section 8 tenants. We all know why… you can identify the apartments in town that accept Section 8 tenants. They tend to be the ones that are the most run down and trashy. They are the apartments that we encourage our adult children to avoid.

Why? Because many (not all) Section 8 tenants treat their apartments like crap. They don’t care for it and often leave it damaged when they leave.

Why? Because they aren’t using their own money to pay for it. The tenant lacks the pride of ownership, even if it is rented, that comes with paying for something with money that he or she earned through the sweat of their brow or firing of neurons. There is no incentive for the tenant to care for the apartment because it costs them nothing to treat it like crap. Thus, many landlords avoid them because the landlords do bear the costs of damage and neglect.

So let’s follow the train of thought… if Milwaukee County creates a bundle of financial incentives for landlords to accept Section 8 tenants, it will likely work for some. More landlords will accept Section 8 housing. Why? Because they are no longer bearing the burden and cost of damage and neglect to their properties. That burden will shift to the taxpayers who are funding the incentives.

So in the end, the taxpayer becomes the forgotten man who bears all of the risks and costs and derives none of the benefits. The tenants benefit from subsidized rents. The landlords benefit from both the additional tenants and the additional incentives. The taxpayer is paying both bills plus their own rent.

Thus spins the flywheel of ever-growing government.


0710, 11 July 2023


  1. dad29

    IIRC, Section 8 is LBJ-era silliness. There were Federal tax incentives to build and rent the units; perhaps those apply only to the original developer/owner? You could also get Fed-subsidized HUD loans to build the damn things.

    Makes one’s head hurt to even think about it….

  2. Merlin

    >So in the end, the taxpayer becomes the forgotten man who bears all of the risks and costs and derives none of the benefits.

    Isn’t that pretty much the Democrat ethos for the last several generations? They know no other way. The professionally Republican nutters have come to like it too, but their deception skills are still just a bit sharper.

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