Stories about life in Liddonfield housing project and its impact on the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Upper Holmesburg. These true stories reveal how government policy affected the lives of real people, from the project residents to area homeowners during the 5 decades of Liddonfield’s existence. Stories and articles are written by a former resident of the project.


Rosemary Reeves, Blogger, standing on Philadelphia Skyline

Sep 15, 2013


Putting Pressure on Politicians by Zeroing in on Section 8 Compliance

By Rosemary Reeves

If you missed the first five parts of this series, click on the links below:

Turning up the heat – putting pressure on the people you’ve elected by zeroing in on Section 8 compliance.
Most average citizens know they can file a complaint through their local housing authority about a nuisance Section 8 neighbor.  Unfortunately, many have done so to no avail.  This is the crucial point where some folks simply give up and decide to move out of their neighborhood.  This is not their fault.  They just don’t know what else to do, since the housing authority seems to have turned a deaf ear to their complaints.  Suppose you find yourself in that situation.  If you were in a vehicle, would you stop driving and leave your car behind just because you reached a dead-end?  No, you’d turn the car around and continue on down a different road that led you to your destination.  

Those who have reached a dead-end with the housing authority might do well to consider contacting the people they’ve elected to public office.  Their job is to serve their constituents and many are quite accessible to members of the general public.  If the housing authority does nothing about your nuisance Section 8 neighbor, contact your representative on City Council (in some cities it’s known as the Board of Supervisors).

HUD doesn’t like to advertise its problem tenants, so your representative on City Council won’t be aware of the Section 8 problem on your street unless you inform him.  You can do this by calling his office, sending an email or posting a letter through regular mail.  Many politicians now have their own websites or Facebook page as well.  You can “friend” them on Facebook and post questions and comments on their websites.  It has never been easier to contact your City Council Representative, so take advantage of these many ways to get in touch with him. 

Your councilperson may simply pass the nuisance Section 8 neighbor complaint onto the local housing authority.  Even so, your complaint carries more weight because the housing authority knows the councilperson has been informed about the problem Section 8 property.  If your harried neighbors do the same, the city council rep may become motivated to stop the large number of repeated complaints by seeking an immediate solution.  If you’re lucky, the councilperson may call the housing authority himself, speak directly to a housing authority official and ask the official to take care of the problem ASAP. 

One strategy you can apply to neighbors who spend a lot of time complaining about Section 8 but say they are too busy to write a letter is to write a letter for them and circulate it.  Address it to your city council representative and have as many neighbors sign it as you can.  Ask each person to include their address and phone number so the public official’s office can contact them if need be.  The best time to circulate the letter is within 48 hours after another problem arises at the Section 8 property, such as loud music late at night or some other kind of neighborhood disturbance.  People are most likely to offer their signature when they are still fired up about an incident the night before.  Strike while the iron is hot! Don’t wait until several days have passed, they’ve had a chance to calm down and their motivation is deflated.


When Mayor Rex Parris began his War on Section 8 due to rising crime in Lancaster, California, one of the main issues he focused on was the severe shortage of investigators who are supposed to follow up on Section 8 compliance violations.  Unbelievably, there were only three housing compliance investigators for the whole county!  Three investigators per thousands of Section 8 tenants may be a shocking ratio but those numbers are not at all unusual.  Our public policy makers have created Section 8 compliance rules but leave most cities and towns with almost no investigators to enforce them.  It is one of HUD’s best kept secrets.  

I strongly suggest that individuals and neighborhood organizations contact their local housing authority and ask how many Section 8 housing compliance officers are assigned to their area as well as the total number of Section 8 households.  Don’t settle for anything less than specific and accurate numbers.  If you can’t get this information, contact a reporter for your local newspaper.  Most reporters have their email address below the articles they write.  Email the reporter and ask if he or she can get the numbers from the housing authority.  It’s likely you will discover there is a severe shortage of compliance investigators.  

If this is the case, pressure the people you’ve elected to take action on this issue.   There is no better time than when they are running for office.  When there is an election coming up, politicians often circulate throughout your city and neighborhood, appearing before neighborhood groups and at town hall meetings.  This is when they are most receptive to issues that are dear to voters.  Grill each candidate on Section 8 compliance during the political campaign.

This concludes the series, Section 8 Trouble:  Whether to Move Out.  I will be writing about Section 8 landlords in future posts so don’t forget to bookmark this page or better yet, subscribe to!  

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