CFED Assets & Opportunity Scorecard
Rental assistance, such as the federally-funded and locally-administered Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, allows low-income families to live in decent and safe homes. Unfortunately, many housing voucher recipients are refused the opportunity to rent because they will be using a housing voucher. Although the federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion, disability and familial status, it does not protect people based on the “source of income” they will use to pay rent. This loophole leaves many voucher-holders vulnerable to discriminatory practices. Even in states where source of income discrimination is illegal, courts have not always upheld the statute, citing that because participation in the voucher program is voluntary voucher-holders are not protected by the law.
States can extend the protections of the Fair Housing Act to include other characteristics, such as marital status, sexual orientation and source of income used to pay rent. To protect voucher-holders, states should include Section 8 vouchers as a protected source of income in state statutes. States should also ensure that courts uphold the statute if tenants face legal proceedings against them.
Strength of State Policies: Protection from Discrimination for Low-Income Renters
|Does state protect Section 8 voucher-holders|
from discrimination in the housing market? 1
|State||Section 8 protections?|
|District of Columbia|
|New York 2|
Notes on the Data
1. "Appendix B: State, Local and Federal Laws Barring Source-of-Income Discrimination," Poverty & Race Research Action Council, March 2015. Accessed June 22, 2015. States receive credit if they have a law explicitly barring housing discrimination on the basis of source of income. States also must actively enforce such a law, and its application must extend to Section 8 housing vouchers.
2. Although California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington do not include Section 8 as a protected source of income in their state laws, several cities and counties in these states have local ordinances that provide that protection: Los Angeles, San Francisco, East Palo Alto, Corte Madera, Woodland, Miami-Dade County, Chicago, Frederick, Howard County, Montgomery County, Grand Rapids, Saint Louis, Buffalo, Nassau County, New York City, State College, Philadelphia, Memphis, Bellevue, King County, Redmond, and Seattle.
How States Are Assessed
States receive credit if they have a law explicitly barring housing discrimination on the basis of source of income. States also must actively enforce such a law, and its application must extend to Section 8 housing vouchers.
What States Have Done
Nine states and the District of Columbia have and uphold laws that protect Section 8 recipients against discrimination by landlords.