You Will Accept This Welfare Check Whether You Want It or Not
The Section 8 housing voucher program is a well-known federal program that subsidizes rental payments for low-income households. It is one of many government welfare programs. For people like me, who believe that the welfare system has a role but also has negative effects, the Section 8 program is far down on the list of programs to object to. It helps people who need housing by working with the private sector in a voluntary capacity. Landlords can choose to participate in it or not, according to federal rules.
But that is not good enough for certain Missouri cities that won’t be content until we are all forced onto the dole.
Maplewood is the latest city to consider passing a “source-of-income” law compelling landlords who operate in that city to accept Section 8 housing vouchers as payment. It would be illegal to decline to rent to people in the program, even though it is a federal program and federal law allows landlords to choose to participate or not. The City of St. Louis, Clayton, and Webster Groves are the three cities in Missouri that currently have these laws. Kansas City has considered it, but thankfully not passed it.
Cities cannot, and should not, be able to tell doctors within their boundaries that they must take Medicaid patients. Cities should not be able to force grocery stores to take food stamps. Clearly, most grocery stores choose to, just like many landlords choose to participate in the Section 8 program, and many doctors and hospitals serve Medicaid patients. I can’t find any examples in Missouri of cities that compel food stamp acceptance, but feel free to share with me if there are (so I can go oppose it). For food stamps, the debate is more about what you can buy with the program, not where you can buy it.
You might — believe it or not — as a landlord, store owner, unemployed person, disabled person, or anything else, choose not to accept a government welfare check or join in a certain program. You have, and should continue to have, that right. Cities with “source-of-income” rules are basically like Marcellus Wallace telling the Harley-Davidson riding, sword-wielding watch-enthusiast/boxer Butch Coolidge what he should do with his sense of pride.
The fact that Marcellus is a mobster just makes the analogy more delicious. These “source-of-income” rules are relatively new to Missouri. But new or not, they are wrong. The state should not compel anyone to participate in a welfare program if they don’t choose to, and this includes landlords. Maplewood should reject this proposal (which has not yet been introduced as a bill). If cities continue to adopt such laws, the state legislature needs to step in and prevent it like they did in Texas.