The United States is experiencing an affordable housing crisis. One of the ways that federal, state and local governments are addressing the problem is by providing housing vouchers to people with low, or no incomes. Housing vouchers cover part or all the rental cost for a unit on the private housing market.

Vouchers can be an effective way of housing vulnerable groups, including those experiencing homelessness. But it only works when a person can find a landlord with an available unit and willing to accept their voucher.

While some rental property owners are skeptical, many do accept housing vouchers from people who have experienced homelessness or other challenges. They do so because they have a business interest, but also a moral incentive to help people in need.

The Office of Homeless Services (OHS) created the Landlord Engagement Program to support Individuals experiencing homelessness and to build a partnership with local rental property owners.

Through this partnership, OHS supports owners with:

  • Free online rental listings on Padmission, a platform for connecting landlords with renters.
  • Consistent and on-time rental payments.
  • A contingency fund to help landlords cover expenses after move-out, such as repairs that exceed security deposits or rent due to unforeseen vacancies.
  • Landlord liaisons and housing specialists to answer questions.
  • Neutral mediators to address landlord/tenant concerns and conflict.

This partnership has created a pipeline of affordable housing. It also spares people experiencing homelessness from the bias and stereotyping that often prevent them from finding long-term housing.

Jackson Duncan is a rental property owner who takes great pride in his participation and experience with the program. We asked him why he got involved and why he continues to be a part of it.

Jack, how long have you been involved with the Landlord Engagement Program?
Jackson Duncan: I have been working with Pathways to Housing, PA, the Philadelphia Housing Authority, and various other subsidized housing agencies since I started working for Odin Properties 11 years ago. I started off as a site manager, and as the company has grown, I have been fortunate to become a Senior Regional Manager.

What do you like about the program?
Jackson Duncan: I enjoy the opportunity to provide a great, but affordable product to Philadelphians, in particular to our families with children. They really need help, and I know they appreciate the housing we offer.

How long is the process for housing voucher holders?
Jackson Duncan: Each case is different, but anywhere from 30 to 60 days.

What were your apprehensions and how has the program changed your mind?
Jackson Duncan: I have never had any apprehensions regarding our process and providing housing to those in need.

In what ways did the program help your rental business?
Jackson Duncan: We have been able to build a great mixed occupancy model, where housing voucher holders and market tenants live harmoniously. We manage several hundred properties that use housing vouchers, and the business is successful.

What part of the program do you value most?
Jackson Duncan: I feel a tremendous amount of purpose from the service we provide Philadelphians, as well as tenants in the 15 different states Odin Properties operates in.

What is next for you? What do you hope for the future?
Jackson Duncan: Stay the course and keep doing what I am doing, as long as I am blessed to have the opportunity.

Photo: Jackson Duncan