Federal, State, and Local Policymakers Are Taking Action to Prohibit Housing Discrimination Based on Source of Income or Veteran Status
On June 26, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) reintroduced the Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2019 to protect veterans and low-income families from housing discrimination. The Fair Housing Improvement Act would expand the Fair Housing Act’s protections to prohibit discrimination based on source of income or veteran status. This bill was previously introduced by Senator Kaine and former Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT).
Too often, low-income households that have secured a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher still face an uphill battle in finding affordable housing because a landlord is unwilling to rent to a voucher holder. Enterprise applauds Senator Kaine for his leadership in ensuring low-income families and veterans have fair and equal access to housing.
About “Source of Income” Discrimination
The Housing Choice Voucher program serves over 2.2. million households and can enable low-income families with children to move to safe neighborhoods with high-quality schools. However, the program is only effective if private landlords are willing to accept the subsidies as a “source of income” for rent payments.
Although Low-Income Housing Tax Credit properties and other types of federally assisted housing are prohibited from discriminating against voucher holders, federal law does not prevent private landlords from rejecting housing vouchers. Rental listings will frequently state “No Section 8.” If a voucher holder cannot find a landlord willing to rent to them, they run the risk of losing their voucher before they can even use it.
This issue extends to veterans served by the HUD-VASH Program. HUD-VASH helps homeless veterans and their families afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing through housing vouchers.  At the end of the 2018 Fiscal Year, there were 85,509 veterans with active HUD-VASH vouchers and 78,234 veterans in housing with a HUD-VASH voucher.  However, HUD’s most recent count estimates that 37,878 veterans remain homeless on any given night. 
Research shows that voucher holders in areas with voucher non-discrimination protection, or source of income discrimination protection, are more likely to succeed in using their vouchers.  States and localities are increasingly passing source of income discrimination protection, but more have not. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, only 1 in 3 voucher holders are protected by non-discrimination laws. Federal protections would ensure that low-income households and veterans receiving housing assistance are not discriminated against.
Enterprise Supports Expanding Federal Protections Against Housing Discrimination
Currently, the Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. Enterprise supports fair and equal access to housing and the expansion of Fair Housing Act protections to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of source of income, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.
State and Local Successes. In addition to advocating for federal protections, Enterprise is also working to advance source of income discrimination protections at the state and local level.
- New York State. Most recently, Enterprise New York led the Statewide Source of Income Coalition and #BanIncomeBiasNY campaign and successfully advocated for the amendment of the New York State Human Rights Law to include source of income as a protected class, and for uniform exemptions statewide. In a last-minute budget victory in April 2019, New York banned source of income discrimination statewide, kicking off National Fair Housing Month with an important issue impacting over 600,000 New Yorkers who receive some form of supplemental income. Enterprise partnered with ERASE Racism, the Fair Housing Justice Center, and the New York Housing Conference on this important and successful effort.
- Denver. In August 2018, the Denver City Council approved a measure that adds source of income protection to the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance, offering new protections for tenants who pay rent using federal housing vouchers or unconventional sources of income. Enterprise’s Denver office worked very closely with Councilmember Robin Kneich to draft the bill and, with our partners, supported its passage.
- Washington. Enterprise also supported the passage of HB 2578 in the State of Washington in 2018, outlawing source of income discrimination statewide.
- Ohio. Enterprise partnered on the introduction and passage of Cuyahoga County’s first Anti-Discrimination Ordinance in 2018 which includes additional housing protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. The ordinance will serve as the basis to advocate for amendments to include source of income and criminal background protections in 2019.
Enterprise will continue advocating for source of income discrimination protections across our local offices. Click here to view a full list of state and local source of income discrimination protections.
Other federal proposals that would expand Fair Housing Act protections. Earlier this year, Senators Kaine, Susan Collins (R-ME), and Angus King (I-ME) introduced the Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2019, which would add gender identity and sexual orientation to the classes protected from discrimination under the Fair Housing Act.
On May 17, the House passed the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other civil rights laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. The Equality Act would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, access to credit, federal funding assistance, and education.