Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, has been all over the news lately. Maybe you're sick of hearing about him, and you've wondered, "Why are we giving him more airtime? And why is this all coming to a head now?"
As Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and others have noted, despite ample evidence of racist ideas and business practices, only recently has Sterling been called out publicly. Sterling "was discriminating against black and Hispanic families for years, preventing them from getting housing. It was public record. We did nothing," Jabar wrote on Time.com. Indeed, Sterling's behavior as a landlord and property owner has been consistently deplorable. But some of it has actually been legal.
Back in 2004, Sterling refused to accept a tenant's Section 8 voucher--a federal rent subsidy--as payment and the court took his side. After waiting five years on a long waiting list of low-income families to receive a Section 8 voucher, Sterling's tenant, an elderly widow named Elisheba Sabi, finally got a voucher but wasn't able to use it to manage her rent.
How could this happen?
Let's start with the program in question: the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program (or "vouchers" for short) is designed to give eligible low-income households that want to rent an opportunity to find their own housing in the private rental market and, theoretically, a chance to escape neighborhoods often hobbled by concentrated poverty, high crime, and low-quality schools. The household is responsible for paying rent (30 percent of their adjusted income) while the region's federal housing authority makes up the difference to the landlord.