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June 2015 Policy Study, Number 15-6


The Nanny State Is Expanding And Private-Property Rights Are Decreasing


Dubuque Today



The Dubuque Section 8 program has been operating under the HUD decree for about a year now. The resident-based priority system has ended and extensive marketing and outreach to minority populations in the Chicago metro area has occurred.  The results are seen in the fact that one of three voucher holders in Dubuque are now minorities, specifically African American.  Almost half of those using the vouchers are single individuals (47.3 percent); another 21 percent are two-person families, with very few four, five, or more people in a household, as outlined by the table below.


Participant Statistical Summary Housing Choice Vouchers - Section 8

Number of Heads of Household

March 1, 2015

Household Size

Total Applicants























8 or more



Total Voucher Recipients



Source:  Participant Statistical Summary Housing Choice vouchers - City of Dubuque, April 8, 2015, http://www.cityofdubuque/statistical/analysis/mar2015.pdf


The amount which the Section 8 vouchers can pay toward rent in Dubuque as of January 1, 2015, is $344 for a single-room occupancy (SRO), $459 for a studio, $568 for a one-bedroom, and $737 for a two-bedroom rental.   There are higher amounts allowed for more bedrooms and in some more “expensive” areas of the town.  According to the 30 and 50 percent of income recommendation, a person making 30 percent of median income, or $13,580 per year, should be paying $334 a month in rent.  This is the amount the Section 8 pays for an SRO rental.  At the 50 percent of median figure ($22,300 a year), the person should be paying $557.  This is without considering if there are other family members, such as children or the elderly/disabled, who cannot work but live in the same home, who would increase the number of bedrooms needed.  When the personal financial commitment is added to the voucher amount the total available for housing ranges from $678 to almost $900 for a one-bedroom rental.  The one-bedroom apartments listed on the April 2015 Dubuque list range from $439 to $772, indicating that current Section 8 voucher holders should be able to find acceptable housing fairly easily.


As of April 26, the Dubuque city council announced that they may be closing the wait list.  This is because the federal funding provided to pay the voucher rent is not sufficient to cover the mandated 1,063 vouchers.  At this time there are 914 vouchers in active use in Dubuque.[26]  There is a shortfall of almost $500,000 in the amount available to pay owners for the other 149. 


Because of the mismanagement of the Chicago voucher and public housing program, people are looking to get on Section 8 anywhere they can – and Dubuque has been mandated to take them.  The current Dubuque wait list is 1,500 applicants, making up over 30 pages of ID numbers and rankings, and the average wait-list time is now over a year, 388 days.  There are basically ten applicants for every one possible voucher to yet be funded. 


The director of the Dubuque Housing and Community Development program, Alvin Nash, was quoted in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald on April 26, 2015, saying that he expects another 2,000 applicants to be added to their wait list before the end of 2015 if the list is not closed.  That would be 24 applicants for every remaining voucher. The current wait-list time is expected to be two years.  Apparently, the marketing and recruitment efforts to entice low-income people to move to Dubuque have been wildly successful.


On the landlord end, there are currently 79 properties on the potential availability list, ranging from single room occupancy to two five-bedroom units.  The rents range from $285 per month for a single room occupancy to just under $1,450 for a four-bedroom unit.[27] If the money is found and another 149 vouchers are issued, there will not be enough property owners interested in renting to Section 8 holders.  Some voucher holders will still not be able to find housing.  This will be another “un-intended” consequence of federal control.  Will HUD then take further actions to force private-property owners in Dubuque to accept Section 8 vouchers, even if they do not want to?  Will they require each apartment complex to have a specific percent of low-income tenants?  Will individual property owners be accused of discrimination against low-income citizens?


If private-property owners who build and operate rental housing cannot control their own tenant selection then fewer people are likely to take the risk of building and operating rental units.  Additionally, the non-low-income tenants will be required to cover the losses generated by Section 8 users.  That will drive the price of housing up higher, resulting in even more people – both current residents and possible new movers such as military veterans and college graduates – who cannot afford to live in Dubuque.  


In the meantime, the reams of paper and reports required by the HUD agreement continues to grow, with monthly, quarterly, annual, and five-year plans and programs required to be developed, documented, and followed up on by local government employees. 




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