Caroline Peattie and Lewis Jordan
May 19, 2021 at 11:44 a.m.
When investigators posing as prospective tenants with housing subsidies inquired about rental housing during a recent fair housing investigation conducted by Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California they uncovered discriminatory policies and practices at over 80% of the Marin County properties investigated.
The findings were part of a recent report in the Marin Independent Journal (“Marin, North Bay rental discrimination persists, housing advocates report,” April 29).
According to the report, there were frequent misunderstandings about fair housing laws currently in place. Landlords also expressed doubts about the administration of the Section 8 program by Marin Housing Authority. As officials from the Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California and the Marin Housing Authority, we would like to clarify the law and resources available to Marin County landlords and tenants.
FHANC is a nonprofit, fair housing organization that works to maximize housing opportunities for all people regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, familial status, disability, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, age, ancestry, source of income or immigration status. Our mission is to ensure equal housing opportunity and to educate our communities on the value of diversity in our neighborhoods.
MHA is a public corporation with the mission to provide decent, safe and sanitary housing for low- and moderate-income people of Marin County.
FHANC has been in contact with landlords and managers who currently do not accept tenants with Section 8 vouchers, many of whom do not believe or understand that they are discriminating. However, refusal to rent to any applicants with Section 8 vouchers constitutes illegal source of income discrimination. Such a policy is out of compliance with state law.
Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, it is unlawful for a housing provider to discriminate in housing based on source of income, including refusing to rent, sell or lease a dwelling to a prospective tenant because of their source of income. It is part of the California Government Code.
In October 2019, the state Legislature passed bills SB 329 and SB 222; these two bills took effect on Jan. 1, 2020 and extended “source of income” protections to Section 8 and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing voucher holders. Under these new protections, “source of income” protections now include “lawful, verifiable income paid directly to a tenant or to a representative of a tenant, or paid to a housing owner or landlord on behalf of a tenant,” according to the code. As such, it is unlawful for landlords to reject tenants simply due to their status as voucher holders.
Failure to comply with the Fair Employment and Housing Act would subject a housing provider to legal action or to disciplinary action by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
Some landlords have expressed their reluctance to participate in the Section 8 program because of what they believe is an administrative burden and a difficult and unresponsive partnership.
However, MHA partners with more than 900 landlords. It has added more than 175 new landlords during the past few years. In addition, Marin Housing Authority has worked diligently with landlords to create a landlord partnership program to address the types of administrative problems housing providers normally cite as a deterrent. The goal of the partnership program is to expand rental opportunities for persons utilizing federal Section 8 vouchers. The aim of the program is to encourage new landlords to participate in the Section 8 program and to retain landlords that currently accept Section 8 vouchers through stronger partnerships.
The program offers the following financial services to property owners: security deposit assistance, funding for unit upgrades including accessibility upgrades, funding for affordable second unit creation, waived county permit and building fees for the creation of new rental units, loss mitigation pool and vacancy loss protection.
For further information on this program, please contact MHA at (415) 491-2525 or visit MHA’s website at MarinHousing.org. For more information about FHANC’s programs, visit FHANC’s website at FairHousingNorCal.org, or for fair housing counseling or to report housing discrimination, please call FHANC at (415) 457-5025.
Caroline Peattie is executive director of Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California. Lewis Jordan is executive director of the Marin Housing Authority.