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.
San Rafael is the next city that could adopt an ordinance of its own. A public hearing is scheduled at the San Rafael City Council meeting on Monday. In October, the City Council considered an ordinance but asked city staff to report back with more information.
Andrew Hening, the city’s homeless planning and outreach director, said, “The city is looking to join other local communities — Fairfax, Novato, the county and San Anselmo — in creating a consistent, regulatory environment for renter protections.”
When the draft ordinance was presented at the October meeting, there was a question about whether this type of regulation could impact residents who are creating accessory dwelling units or junior second units, which the city would like to encourage, Henning said.
Staff followed up with residents who have created these types of units over the past four years and 77 percent of respondents said a source of income ordinance would likely have no impact on their projects.
“In short, the goal of the source of income ordinance is to provide protections for local residents that rely on third-party rental assistance such as housing choice vouchers,” Henning said. “Such ordinances have been demonstrated to reduce voucher rejections by as much as 50 percent.
The San Rafael City Council meeting is at 7 p.m. at City Hall at 1400 Fifth Ave.