VOICES: Everyone deserves quality housing

Editor’s Note: At the City of Dayton Commission meeting on Wednesday, March 1, an ordinance to prohibit source of income discrimination was scheduled for a vote. Hear from two sides of the proposed ordinance, which passed, in today’s Ideas & Voices.

No matter where you live, we can all agree that every family deserves access to decent housing. But for too many people in our community, that isn’t the case. Source of Income discrimination is the practice of refusing to rent to someone based on the source of their income, usually involving rental assistance, vouchers, disability benefits, or social security benefits. This type of discrimination is most commonly seen in the form of advertisements stating that “No Section 8,” or “we do not accept rental assistance.” Section 8 is the federal government’s flagship rent-assistance program for low-income people to afford housing.

Locally, we can clearly see this type of discrimination in the number voucher holders that are unable to secure housing. Currently, Greater Dayton Property Management, our local housing authority, has approximately 400 voucher holders who are unable to secure housing - despite having the ability to pay for it and the backing of the federal government. These vouchers often expire if the tenant is unable to locate a housing provider that will accept the voucher. The resulting housing instability can cause long term negative impacts for tenants and the families - especially children.

To address this issue, the City of Dayton’s Eviction Task Force formed a group in the hope of developing legislation that the Dayton City Commission would consider. This group, made up of housing providers, tenant advocates, public health experts, and other community leaders, looked at ways to tackle income discrimination and improve access to housing in Dayton. We considered legislation from all around the country and here in Ohio, in communities like Columbus, Cincinnati, and Bexley. Ultimately, we recommended legislation that would prohibit source of income discrimination in our City.

Today, the Dayton City Commission will be considering this legislation to do what it can to help Dayton families seeking good, stable housing. This legislation will ensure that a tenant’s source of income derived from social security, disability benefits, rental vouchers, child support, and all other forms of federal, state, or local assistance payments will not be discriminated against. That means that a housing provider could no longer deny a tenant based solely on their source of income. Further, this type of discrimination could result in enforcement action by the City of Dayton Human Relations Council to determine if the discrimination has occurred.

There is still work to be done to ensure that our City and its residents have affordable quality housing but this is an important step. By banning source of income discrimination, we will be one step closer to ensuring that every Dayton family has access to safe, affordable housing.

Marty Gehres is the Dayton Municipal Clerk of Courts, a former City of Dayton Assistant City Attorney, and joined the Eviction Task Force in 2022.

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