Bill tar­gets in­come-based hous­ing bias

Bans voucher re­jec­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY VICKIE CON­NOR

ANNAPOLIS | Voucher hold­ers’ op­tions for hous­ing may soon broaden if Mary­land law­mak­ers rein­tro­duce and pass the Home Act in the up­com­ing 2017 leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

The leg­is­la­tion is in­tended to stop dis­crim­i­na­tion in real es­tate based on source of in­come. It would pro­hibit land­lords from turn­ing away those pay­ing with vouch­ers, adding to a list of other cur­rent il­le­gal bases for dis­crim­i­na­tion, like race, sex, color, religion, na­tional ori­gin, mar­i­tal sta­tus, fa­mil­ial sta­tus, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der iden­tity and dis­abil­ity.

The bill is de­signed to help those with Sec­tion 8 hous­ing choice vouch­ers. Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment, the vouch­ers “as­sist very low-in­come fam­i­lies, the el­derly, and the dis­abled to af­ford de­cent, safe, and san­i­tary hous­ing.”

Pub­lic hous­ing agen­cies re­ceive fed­eral funds to pay a hous­ing sub­sidy di­rectly to the land­lord. Par­tic­i­pat­ing fam­i­lies then pay the dif­fer­ence be­tween the ac­tual rent and the sub­si­dized pay­ment.

Del­e­gate Stephen Laf­ferty, the Baltimore County Demo­crat who spon­sored the Home Act of 2016 (HB759), said the specifics of the 2017 bill are in progress. It failed to move for­ward in the 2016 ses­sion af­ter its first read­ing and hear­ing in Fe­bru­ary.

Sup­port­ers of the bill say it would be crit­i­cal in the ef­fort to end home­less­ness and de­cen­tral­ize poverty in cer­tain neigh­bor­hoods.

“I be­lieve in pro­vid­ing as many op­por­tu­ni­ties to hous­ing as pos­si­ble,” Mr. Laf­ferty told the Univer­sity of Mary­land’s Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice.

In an Oc­to­ber work ses­sion of the House of Del­e­gates sub­com­mit­tee on hous­ing, sup­port­ers of the Home Act said many land­lords who ac­cept vouch­ers are in im­pov­er­ished neigh­bor­hoods that lack qual­ity health care, gro­cery and trans­porta­tion ac­cess. Lim­ited voucher ac­cep­tance else­where only per­pet­u­ates a cy­cle of poverty.

Utah, Ok­la­homa, Con­necti­cut, Maine, Mas­sachusetts, Min­nesota, North Dakota, New Jersey, Ore­gon, Ver­mont, Wis­con­sin, the District of Columbia and many lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions al­ready have sim­i­lar laws that pro­hibit dis­crim­i­na­tion based on source of in­come.

Law­mak­ers have pro­posed sim­i­lar bills in the past to help voucher hold­ers, but they have failed to pass through Mary­land’s Gen­eral Assem­bly.

Hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tions say the hous­ing choice voucher pro­gram, or Sec­tion 8, is a vol­un­tary pro­gram and the de­ci­sion to ac­cept vouch­ers should be left to the hous­ing provider.

Hous­ing and real es­tate agent as­so­ci­a­tions said the Sec­tion 8 voucher pro­gram puts ad­di­tional con­tract and ad­min­is­tra­tive bur­dens on land­lords that they would oth­er­wise not face with non-voucher ten­ants. Con­cerns in­clude rent and se­cu­rity de­posit lim­its, rent in­creases sub­ject to gov­ern­ment ap­proval, un­cer­tainty with rental pay­ments, con­straints on evic­tions and ad­di­tional in­spec­tions and pa­per­work.

Adam Skol­nik, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Mary­land Multi-Hous­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, owns 34 rental units in Baltimore and Baltimore County. Mr. Skol­nik said 25 of his prop­er­ties are rented to Sec­tion 8 voucher-hold­ers. But he said the de­ci­sion to do so should be op­tional.

“We be­lieve in the fair hous­ing laws,” Mr. Skol­nik said. “This is gen­uinely dif­fer­ent than religion or skin color. There are un­due bur­dens that go along with the vouch­ers and that’s why we be­lieve this bill should never see the light of day again.”

Mr. Skol­nik said in a mar­ket-rate en­vi­ron­ment, he can move some­one into a rental unit in about four days. But when deal­ing with vouch­ers, it can take 60 days, par­tic­u­larly in Baltimore. Mr. Skol­nik said he loses money when that hap­pens.

Sup­port­ers of the bill, like the Home­less Per­sons Rep­re­sen­ta­tion Project and Mary­land’s AARP, are urg­ing leg­is­la­tors to move the Home Act for­ward into law.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.