As housing affordability continues to decrease nationwide, an effort is underway at the local and federal level to prevent landlords from discriminating against those who pay for housing using government subsidies, such as Section 8 vouchers.
On Jan. 3, Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, a Democrat from New York, started the 116th Congress with a H.R. 232, the “Landlord Accountability Act,” to amend the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination at the federal level based on use of housing vouchers, including Section 8 vouchers.
Addressing the problem of landlords allowing Section 8 units to fall into disrepair and therefore no longer qualify for a voucher, the bill would also fine landlords up to $100,000 for taking actions or neglecting to act with the intention of disqualifying units from federal housing programs, Velázquez said in a press release.
Moreover, landlords could face a second set of fins of $50,000 that would go to “aggrieved tenants,” she added.
The bill would also create a new Multifamily Housing Complaint Resolution Program to investigate and try to resolve disputes through mediation and would make complaints publicly available.
A new $25 million grant program included in the bill would also support agencies that provide tenants with assistance and legal advice.
U.S. Senators Tim Kaine, and Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, introduced a bill — the Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2018 — in November to expand the Fair Housing Act to prohibit housing discrimination based on lawful source of income or veteran status.
The bill was referred to the Senate banking committee, but failed to proceed before the end of the 115th Congress.
Washington, Oklahoma, Vermont, Utah, North Dakota, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., already have such laws in place and more than 50 cities and counties prohibit discrimination against voucher households, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
California, Delaware, Minnesota and Wisconsin have laws that ban discrimination based on source of income but do not include housing vouchers and Indiana and Texas have laws that actually prohibit local governments from protecting housing voucher recipients.
In a press release, the senators said the federal legislation would give more families access to affordable housing& a shot at economic mobility. More than 2 million vets and low-income families use housing vouchers.
In August, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) kicked off a campaign to encourage more landlords to participate in Section 8 after finding “most” landlords do not accept voucher holders.
The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program has been “plagued with inefficiencies, onerous regulatory requirements and a flawed funding system for years,” the National Multifamily Housing Council said in a statement about the proposed bill.
Inman News; by ANDREA V. BRAMBILA