Los Angeles City Council Moves for Section 8 Non-Discrimination
The twelve-member Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted to bar landlords from refusing to consider tenants with Section 8 vouchers in April 2019. The council told the city attorney to draft an ordinance that would extend non-discrimination protections to Section 8, or source-of-income, discrimination to people who pay with vouchers.
Once the Los Angeles city attorney drafts the ordinance, the proposal will go back to the council for a final vote before it officially becomes law. The new law would take effect on January 1, 2020.
The new law is necessary because, according to housing advocates, landlords sometimes use Section 8 bans as an alternative means of discriminating against people for their race or class.
The denial of Section 8 vouchers is a significant barrier to people being able to access affordable housing. In Los Angeles, almost half the people who received a voucher had it expire in 2017 before they found a place to live, which is a problem given the city's homelessness crisis. Also, low usage rates can lead to less federal funding in the future.
There are a growing number of cities passing similar ordinances, such as Santa Monica, banning source-of-income discrimination by landlords to combat the problem of soaring rents. Although the ordinances do not directly address the issue of skyrocketing rents across Southern California, they do prohibit blanket Section 8 bans and make it illegal for landlords to advertise that they will not accept state vouchers at their apartment complexes (an arguably discriminatory tactic used by landlords based on the belief that people who need rent subsidies are problem tenants).
Since Section 8 requires landlords to have the rental units inspected before renting them with a federal subsidy, the city's housing authority is working to reduce wait times for those checks to two days. By streamlining the process, the city hopes to minimize landlord concerns about delays in collecting rent payments and bureaucratic red tape.
If the ordinance becomes law, Los Angeles will join eleven states and nine cities with similar policies in place that outlaw blanket Section 8 bans, according to a report by the Poverty & Race Research Action Council. However, there are an additional four states that offer limited protections for source-of-income discrimination although the laws do not directly cover housing vouchers.
There is currently a pending state bill, Senate Bill 329, that would extend the protections against source-of-income discrimination across the state of California.