Dayton could soon amend its anti-discrimination housing laws to add a new protected class: source of income.
Some landlords refuse to rent housing to tenants who receive federal rental assistance, like Section 8 housing vouchers, or other kinds of subsidies or payments like alimony, child support or disability benefits.
Adding income to Dayton’s anti-discrimination protections would help increase housing options for many vulnerable community members at a time when housing availability and affordability is a big challenge, supporters say.
“This happens more than you realize,” said Amy Klaben, an affordable housing advocate who spoke at a recent housing symposium at the Dayton Metro Library.
But critics of income-protection measures say they place a significant burden on landlords who must comply with additional regulations.
Former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley convened an eviction task force in 2019, and source of income was a point of discussion, said Dayton Municipal Court Clerk Marty Gehres, who formerly served as an assistant city attorney.
A working group was created earlier this year to examine source-of-income issues with representatives from the Dayton Mediation Center, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Public Health — Dayton & Montgomery County, Dayton Realtors and the Greater Dayton Apartment Association.
That group developed proposed changes to city code that would prohibit landlords from denying housing to tenants because of lawful sources of income they receive, said Gehres, who was the chair of the working group.
This would include rent vouchers, child support, public assistance, Social Security income, disability benefits and other kinds of payments.
A draft ordinance is under development that is expected to be introduced by the end of the year, said Torey Hollingsworth, director of the Dayton City Commission Office.
Gehres presented proposed language to the eviction task force in early October, Hollingsworth said.
Dayton’s current anti-discrimination laws cover race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, familial status and disability.
Federal law does not prevent landlords from refusing to accept housing vouchers, which are provided to very-low-income households so they can secure privately owned rental housing.
Families who receive Section 8 vouchers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must put 30% of their monthly adjusted gross income toward rent and utilities, while the local public housing authority pays the rest.
Finding housing with a voucher is very difficult because of a high denial rate by landlords, said Klaben, principal of Strategic Opportunities and project facilitator of Move to Prosper.
Klaben and Gehres were members of a panel last week that discussed income protections during Dayton’s 2022 Fair Housing Symposium.
Klaben said source-of-income discrimination perpetuates poverty and systemic racism, and many housing-voucher holders live in areas with high levels of poverty.
Source of income protection laws are becoming increasingly common.
Today, about 20 states and more than 120 cities have passed legislation that create source-of-income protections. That includes Cincinnati, Columbus, Toledo, Akron and Yellow Springs, Klaben said.
“It’s freedom of choice in determining where to live,” Klaben said.
Ohio does not have source-of-income protections at the state level.
More than 3,200 families are on the housing choice voucher waitlist in Montgomery County, said Emma Smales, birth outcomes manager with Public Health — Dayton & Montgomery County, who also was a member of the panel at the housing symposium.
Families might be on a waitlist for years, and only about 35% of families are successful at using their housing choice vouchers when they receive them, said Smales, who is a member of the working group chaired by Gehres.
Voucher recipients only have six weeks to use their vouchers, and they will be put back on the waitlist if they cannot find a landlord who will accept the form of payment, Smales said.
The National Apartment Association says landlords who accept vouchers may have to comply with HUD and local public housing authority requirements such as limits on rent increases and rents being subject to “reasonableness” requirements.
Landlords have to enter into housing assistance payment contracts with public housing authorities and must comply with administrative responsibilities, the association said.
“These challenges create uncertainty in rental housing operations and often undermine the ability of owners to properly manage risk, leading to negative outcomes for owners and residents alike,” the organization said.
Housing providers are concerned about accepting vouchers because of the additional regulations they would face, such as inspection and re-inspections that they think can be time-consuming and burdensome, Gehres said.
Gehres said he thinks getting landlords training about the inspection and compliance process would make things go more smoothly.