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MARIN COUNTY, CA — A Marin landlord has agreed to comply with state law and pay a fair housing advocacy group $25,000 after allegedly refusing to accept housing vouchers, the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing said Wednesday in a news release.
A housing discrimination complaint filed by Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California (FHANC) precipitated the agreement, the DFEH said.
The complaint alleged that the owners of Bon Air Apartments, a large Greenbrae apartment complex refused to rent to prospective tenants who would have used housing choice (formerly known as Section 8) vouchers to help pay their rent.
State law prohibits discrimination based on a tenant’s source of income, including use of a housing choice voucher.
The dispute was resolved through mediation with the DFEH’s Dispute Resolution Division.
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June 2, 2022 (Updated: June 5, 2022 6:50 p.m.)
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An anti-discrimination group says it has settled its case against owners of an apartment complex in Marin County who had refused to offer any of their 646 units to anyone in the Section 8 program, which provides financial aid to low-income renters.
Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California said it was contacted in 2020 by a woman who said she had wanted to rent an apartment at Bon Air Apartments in Greenbrae but had been told by the owners, Greenbrae Management, that they did not accept vouchers under Section 8, which are subsidized by the federal government. Such refusals are permitted by federal law but are prohibited by California law, which since 2019 has barred housing discrimination based on the source of a renter’s income.
The advocacy group said it started holding workshops for property owners in the area to inform them of the law, and posted flyers in stores, restaurants and other business locations in Marin and Sonoma counties. It also filed a complaint with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing and sent its own investigators, posing as renters, to Greenbrae Management.
Click here to read the entire article in the Marin IJ.
The need for housing is acute across Marin County, yet how to address the tremendous need is a thicket of issues and conflicting perspectives.
The good news is that residents can help with an update to the local housing element, which provides an analysis of a community’s housing needs for all income levels and seeks to offer strategies that will respond to them.
By law, the housing element is required as part of the county’s general plan. The 2022 update, happening now, will guide policy and practice through 2030. If a pathway to housing that allows essential workers, students, and people of color to live here is to be achieved, we must seize this moment to address local affordability as key to achieving racial and economic equity.
Challenges around housing affordability in Marin and the greater Bay Area are well known. Issues of affordability for renters in Marin, where 38% of current housing is renter-occupied, deserve particular attention. For approximately 55% of Marin renters, the cost of their current housing exceeds the threshold of what is considered affordable. This means that they pay more than 30% of their income on housing costs.
Even more concerning, at least 25% of renters currently pay more than 50% of their income toward housing costs.
The lack of affordability undermines individual and family stability. It has ripple effects throughout our community, from the ability of local businesses to hire and retain workers, to increased traffic and commute times when workers cannot afford to live locally.
More concerning and perhaps less well known are the racial disparities present in Marin’s current housing landscape. Homelessness and housing insecurity disproportionately impact people of color, families with children and people with disabilities. These groups are protected under state and federal fair housing laws. But in Marin, a disproportionate share of renters are people of color. Though they are only 18% of the population, 71% of Latinos and 70% of African Americans rent in Marin.