By ADRIAN RODRIGUEZ | firstname.lastname@example.org | Marin Independent Journal
PUBLISHED: December 2, 2018 at 12:48 pm | UPDATED: December 3, 2018 at 6:46 am
San Anselmo has joined a growing list of Marin cities in prohibiting landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants who use Section 8 housing vouchers. The Town Council last week voted 3-1, with Councilman Ford Greene recusing himself and Matt Brown dissenting, to approve the fair housing ordinance, similar to rules passed in Fairfax and Novato and by the Marin County Board of Supervisors.
A second reading is scheduled for the council’s December meeting; the rule will take effect 30 days after final approval.
Councilman Brian Colbert said he’s seen no evidence that rental discrimination based on source of income is an issue in San Anselmo. He said after speaking with landlords in town, he has heard no major complaints about the ordinance. “I do think as a policy statement, I support the ordinance,” he said.
Greene, who is a Section 8 landlord in town, recused himself from the vote, but commented as a member of the public. “I think it’s a good ordinance,” he said. “If I were voting, I would urge you to approve it.”
Brown, who is also a landlord, said that he wasn’t ready to support the ordinance. He said he was unclear on what protections property owners have when a tenant damages property.
State law already prohibits housing discrimination based on source of income, but that rule does not protect those who use third-party subsidies, such as Section 8 vouchers. The ordinance makes it illegal for property owners to advertise that they do not accept Section 8 vouchers or change a lease agreement based on the subsidy. Landlords can still screen tenants based on factors like credit score, rental history and references, said Sarah Price, associate planner.
Price said, for context, that between 2014 and 2016 about half of the county’s nearly 2,200 voucher holders weren’t able to find landlords willing to accept vouchers, which resulted in them losing their vouchers. The county, which adopted its rules in 2016, has called on other communities to follow suit in order to create uniform protections throughout the county. State law does have anti-discrimination protections in place for tenants, but those do not cover Section 8 housing vouchers.
By Caroline Peattie, of Mill Valley, is executive director of San Rafael-based Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California.
The Marin Board of Supervisors is scheduled Tuesday to consider a “just cause for eviction” ordinance that would require a landlord to state a legitimate reason for terminating a renter’s tenancy.
Most people know that Marin renters face a housing crisis, given the scarcity of housing combined with unaffordable rental prices. Renters are vulnerable, and unlike homeowners, even if they pay their bills on time and maintain the property they live in, they can be given notice to move with no reason at all. Worse, if a landlord is evicting tenants for a discriminatory reason or in retaliation – both of which are illegal – the burden is on the tenant to prove it, something that can be difficult, if not impossible, to do.
We want our children to attend school without disruption, for seniors to have continuity of care and support, and people who provide
important services in Marin to have stability in their housing. And housing instability disproportionately affects the most vulnerable members of our community — families with children, people of color, and individuals with disabilities, many of whom are seniors.
Marin County, already lacking in diversity, risks continuing to lose ground. (See, for example, Advancement Project’s “Race Counts” at racecounts.org/county/marin, which identified Marin County as the most racially disparate county in the state, or KQED’s 2017 podcast and article, “Why is Marin County So White?”
Marin County has passed other ordinances protecting tenants through its mandatory rent mediation program and its ordinance prohibiting discrimination against those with housing subsidies. But rent mediation without just cause for eviction does not truly protect renters, as property owners who want to raise rent without mediation can simply serve a no-cause notice to vacate.