Housing discrimination allegations are on the rise in Miami-Dade County as rent and home prices continue to increase.
Miami Gardens native Keisha Guyton moved back in with her parents this year. The mother of two told NBC 6 she started looking for a place last May and still no luck.
“What is affordable? That’s the thing,” Guyton said.
Guyton applied and received a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher – government money aimed to help people like her live in places they normally couldn’t afford.
“Give your children a better place to live. Give your children better schooling. It’s an opportunity for people who wouldn’t be able to do that on their own,” Guyton said.
Guyton said she wanted to live at the Horizons North apartments in Miami.
In a complaint she filed with the Miami-Dade Commission on Human Rights, Guyton claims she was rejected because she didn’t have an income of three times the total monthly rent – which will be more than $6,000 a month.
Guyton said that violated the county ordinance banning discrimination by “source of income.” In her case: child support and the voucher.
Staff at Horizons North told NBC 6 Guyton was rejected because her voucher didn’t cover all the rent, so she needed to pay out of pocket around $260 a month and that far lower number is the income requirement they rejected her for.
FPI Management is the company that manages Horizons North. In an email, FPI’s leadership disputed Guyton’s claim.
“The property and FPI deny Ms. Guyton’s allegation of discrimination,” wrote Lacy Devela, the Senior Director of FPI Management. “Applicants at Horizon North Apartments with Housing Choice Vouchers only need to make three times the amount of rent that is not covered by the Housing Choice Voucher.”
The Miami-Dade Commission on Human Rights could not provide specifics about Guyton’s complaint because the case is under investigation.
NBC 6 Investigators found housing complaints into the office are on the rise.
Records obtained through a public records request show the commission received 379 complaints of discrimination in 2021 and 53 of them – 14% – were housing complaints.
In the first three months of 2022, almost one out of four discrimination complaints were related to housing: 19 out of 82 total at 23%.
“Obviously we’re aware there is a problem with affordability in the county,” said Erin New, who oversees the Miami-Dade Commission of Human Rights.
New told NBC 6 Investigators there’s not just an increase in housing complaints but also an uptick for those related to “source of income” – often targeting vulnerable groups.
“The majority of our complainants are members of traditional underserved, disadvantaged groups. People of color. People with disabilities. Members of the LGBTQ plus community,” New said.
“I think of greed,” Guyton said.
Guyton ran out of time. HUD recently sent her a letter saying her request for an extension was not approved and her voucher expired.
Guyton said she worries for people like her in a turbulent housing market.
“There’s a lot of Section 8 people that are going to be homeless,” Guyton said.
While a Housing Choice Voucher may not solve all of an individual’s housing needs, the demand is remarkable. In 2021, Miami-Dade County opened up the application process for 5,000 vouchers and 90,000 people applied.
To file a complaint with the Miami-Dade Commission on Human Rights click here.