Section 8 Housing Protection Law Enforcement in Santa Monica
A new law has been used by the Santa Monica City Attorney's Office to bring resolution to multiple complaints involving Section 8 housing discrimination. The law protects those who hold vouchers for Section 8 housing from being subject to discrimination. In eleven instances, tenants or voucher holders were rejected from housing by landlords in Santa Monica. However, the City Attorney's Office was able to intervene and place all eleven tenants in affordable housing thanks to the new law.
The Section 8 Voucher Program in Santa Monica
Section 8 housing vouchers, also known as "The Housing Voucher Program," is a federally run program that is administered locally by the Santa Monica Housing Authority. Its purpose is to assist tenants with low-incomes to find clean, safe housing that they can afford. When an individual is approved for the Housing Voucher Program in Santa Monica, they pay between thirty and forty percent of income toward the cost of rent, and the Section 8 voucher covers the remaining amount of the rent owed. The program helps low-income tenants secure safe and affordable housing, ensures landlords are paid the value of their rental properties, and frees resources for the city to extend to others in need.
Section 8 Discrimination in Santa Monica
Unfortunately, by 2016 many Santa Monica landlords ultimately chose to adopt discriminatory policies against tenants with Section 8 vouchers, even in instances where the rent was low enough that the tenant would not need to use the Housing Voucher Program. Some applicants were rejected for using Section 8 vouchers after already putting money into applications, increasing the amount they lost over the rejection. In some cases, tenants had their vouchers expire, or they were forced to relocate outside of Santa Monica to participate in the Housing Voucher Program.
Making “Source of Income” a Protected Class
The Santa Monica City Council responded to the housing discrimination against Section 8 voucher holders by adding "source of income" to the laws that protect certain classes of tenants from discrimination. Previously, these classes included disability, race, family, and national origin. However, the addition of "source of income" as a protected class ensures that a landlord may not discriminate against an individual whose payment for rent includes Section 8 vouchers.
Santa Monica’s Enforcement of the Housing Protection Law
Since the language of the law has been updated to include "source of income" as one of the protected tenant classes, there have been eleven source-of-income housing discrmination cases filed and resolved. In each of these eleven cases, although the particulars of the situation varied, each tenant qualified for the Housing Voucher Program at the time the intervention of the City Attorney's Office took place. In each instance, the City Attorney's Office sent a letter to the landlord who had initially rejected the Section 8 voucher and was eventually able to persuade them to accept the voucher. In other instances, the City Attorney's Office was able to use the law to secure funding from third-party sources, such as the Projects in Assistance to Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program.