Bipartisan ‘Fair Housing Improvement Act’ Introduced in Congress

Would Prohibit Discrimination Based on Source of Income and Veteran Status

On November 13, 2018, U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced the “Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2018.” The bill aims to protect low income families and veterans from housing discrimination based on a person’s source of income and veteran status.

Ten states and approximately 50 counties and cities have non-discrimination protections for housing voucher holders, but according to a recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), only one out of three Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) holders is protected by source-of-income (SOI) non-discrimination protections.

SOI non-discrimination laws prohibit landlords from discriminating against potential renters who receive income from sources such as alimony, disability benefits, and HCVs. Researchers have found that where they exist these laws reduce SOI discrimination.

“Many of you know I’m a former civil rights attorney,” Senator Kaine said in a statement to the Senate. “My practice focused on fair housing and I witnessed the pain experienced by families who were discriminated against as they searched for a home. Today, veterans who are good tenants with supportive housing vouchers can be turned down for an apartment or lease renewal because of how they pay their rent. Housing decisions should be based on your merits, not harmful stereotypes about those who receive housing assistance. If you pass a screening and background check, you shouldn’t be denied a place to live because of your service record or how your rent will be paid. Unfortunately, this happens in America every day and it is wrong.”

“Helping veterans lead lives of dignity and independence has long been among my top priorities,” said Senator Hatch to the Augusta Free Press. “This bill is part and parcel to that legacy. It will put an end to the immoral housing discrimination against veterans and others who rely on veterans’ benefits, Social Security Disability, or other non-wage legal income. This bill will address the fact that Source of Income is not a protected class under the Federal Fair Housing Act, thereby helping to remove an unnecessary barrier facing Utah families and veterans on the path to self-reliance.”

“I applaud Senator Hatch and Senator Kaine for introducing this important legislation to help combat housing discrimination, segregation, and inequality,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel. “Where you live has an enormous impact on the opportunities you and your children have in life – everything from educational attainment, to lifetime earnings, better health, and life expectancy. For too long, discrimination has prevented low income people from living in neighborhoods of their choice – including communities with jobs that pay decent wages, good schools, healthcare, and transportation – simply because they rely on federal housing benefits to make ends meet. This legislation is an important step towards righting this wrong.”

The bill (S.3612) was referred to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

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