Denton County homeowners association bans Section 8 tenants, sparking outrage

Decision means 81 families set to be displaced, Denton Housing Authority says

Providence Village
(iStock, Google Maps)

A homeowners’ association in Denton County near Dallas, will no longer accept tenants receiving Section 8 federal housing assistance, a decision that will mean the displacement of 81 families.

“I’m going to be homeless,” single mom and small business owner Revisha Threats told NBC DFW. “I’m going to use that money that I get back from a deposit and put everything in storage and don’t know where to live if I can afford a hotel.”

Threats is a resident of Providence Village. Earlier this month, the Providence homeowners’ association passed new rental and leasing rules abolishing Section 8 housing voucher programs that incentivized private landlords to rent apartments and homes to qualified low-income tenants. As part of the program, Section 8 landlords get guaranteed rent payments each month and prescreened tenants.

The new legislation, which reads, “A Rent House may not be used for a publicly financed or subsidized housing program, such as Section 8 Housing,” includes a $300 per week penalty for homeowners caught violating the rules.

With hundreds facing eviction, the decision incited immediate opposition from advocacy groups.

On Wednesday, the Denton Housing Authority issued a press release announcing it has instructed 81 families impacted by the Section 8 ban not to move, adding that the families have “been informed of their rights under Fair Housing, and they may file a complaint with the Fair Housing and Opportunity (FHEO)” office. The DHA also said it would offer relocation assistance if any of the households faced harassment or violence from landlords. Jessica Vittorio, an attorney with the Dallas Eviction Advocacy Center, said her organization is looking into potential legal consequences of the HOA’s actions.

“I cannot think of any other way to sum it up besides discrimination,” Providence resident Stephen Smith, a father of three, told NBC DFW. Smith, a truck driver, says the program helped stabilize his family after he was injured on the job and became disabled.

Of the 81 families contacted by the DHA, 91 percent were black, 30 percent were disabled and 60 percent had children, according to the organization.

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The same day, the Providence HOA issued a response addressing “newspaper articles and news reports regarding the Amendment to implement Rental Restrictions.”

“The amendment passed with 52.8 percent of homeowners in support. This is a huge win for the community,” the letter said, “[we] look forward to keeping our community beautiful and protecting property values.”

Though the HOA clarified that no fines have been issued to homeowners at this time and that landlords would not be fined until “90 days from the date of recordation with the county,” several homeowners have said this is not the case.

However, Judy Rooker, who oversees about 23 local properties through her property management company, told the Denton Record-Chronicle that HOA manager Cody Watson said fines would begin immediately unless Section 8 tenants move out or landlords start charging tenants full rent.

“[The HOA] said all Section 8 tenants would be able to complete their lease and wouldn’t be immediately kicked out,” said landlord Alecia Mackey, who has three homes with Section 8 tenants in the town. “People voted based on that assumption.”

Though homeowners did not get to vote on the rental rules themselves, they did vote to give the board the authority to make the rules, but that decision was based on an earlier draft of the proposed rule changes. A Q&A obtained by The Real Deal, which was distributed to homeowners prior to the vote, reads, “No lease, Section 8 or otherwise, will be terminated immediately. All leases will be honored without penalty.” Board members and staff of the HOA, run by First Service Residential, also allegedly used “scaremongering” tactics to sway the vote, resident Daniel Puffer told the DRC.

“The final version does not represent what was initially presented to us,” Mackey said. “I feel like we’ve been duped.”