CFED Assets & Opportunity Scorecard
|Protection from Discrimination for Low-Income Renters|
States that Prohibit Section 8 "Source-of-Income" Discrimination
Rental assistance, such as 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.
What States Can Do
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 the state protect Section 8 voucher-holders|
from discrimination in the housing market? 1
|State||Section 8 protections?|
|District of Columbia|
Notes on the Data
1. "Appendix B: State, Local and Federal Laws Barring Source-of-Income Discrimination," Poverty & Race Research Action Council, April 2013.
2. Although California has legislation to protect against source-of-income discrimination, the law does not protect Section 8 vouchers. California's Fair Employment and Housing Department has held that landlords are not required to accept Section 8 housing vouchers under the "source-of-income" discimination prohibitions because source of income is defined as a "lawful, verifiable income paid directly to a tentant or paid to a representative of a tenant."
3. Although Minnesota enacted a source-of-income ("public assistance") law in 1990, a 2010 court ruling held that particpation in Section 8 programs was voluntary and thus it is not "unlawful for property owners to either refuse to rent, or refuse to continue renting, to tenant-based Section 8 recipients."
4. In 2013, Oregon passed HB 2639, which protects Section 8 voucher holders from discrimination. The law, however, does not go into effect until July 1, 2014.
5. Although Utah's Fair Housing Act was amended in 1993 to include source-of-income discrimination, advocates in the state argue that the eviction laws favor landlords so extremely that some landlords will still not take on section 8 recipients. There are no cases citing the source-of-income law in Utah.
6. Although Wisconsin prohibits source-of-income discrimination, the state case law has held that lawful source of income does not include Section 8 rental assistance.
What States Have Done
Nine states have and uphold laws that protect Section 8 recipients against discrimination by landlords.