California Lawyer magazine—Section 8 Tenants Unwelcome

The city of Lancaster declares war on federally subsidized renters, claiming Los Angeles County is steering poor Tenants to the Antelope Valley.

R. Rex Parris, mayor of Lancaster in the high desert of Los Angeles County, began his state-of-the-city address last February by praising his constituents. “We’ve done something nobody thought we could do,” he said, pacing among the luncheon guests at the Antelope Valley Chambers of Commerce. During his four years as mayor, Parris claimed, the city slashed its crime rate by 40 percent. “I’m seeing people for the first time starting to believe it, that we’re becoming something that is world class.” Then without missing a beat the 60-year-old white-haired attorney added, “And there are a lot of people that would like to stop that progress.”

Later in his presentation, Parris gestured toward a slide projected on the wall behind him. It listed statistics indicating that the 5 percent of Lancaster’s residents who use federal housing vouchers to help pay their rent account for 10 percent of all arrests in the city. He speculated that Lancaster might even lapse back into having gang problems because of what he considers interference by the county with the city’s campaign to police voucher holders. Turning to the table where Bob Jonsen, captain of Lancaster’s sheriff substation, was seated, Parris asked, “It’s becoming harder, wouldn’t you say?”

“Absolutely,” Jonsen replied.

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