Village Council bans income source discrimination for renters
- Published: September 30, 2021
After Monday night’s Village Council meeting, local landlords can no longer refuse to rent to tenants based solely on the tenants’ source of income.
In its regular meeting on Sept. 20, held remotely via Zoom, Council heard a second reading of an ordinance, “Prohibiting Housing Discrimination Based Upon Source of Income.” The ordinance maintains that landlords must work with tenants who use Social Security, Section 8 or other vouchers to help pay for housing. According to Debra Lavey, a representative from Dayton ABLE, or Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, laws similar to the one Village Council was considering focus on income-based discrimination, which has historically been used to keep minorities out of certain neighborhoods.
After the reading and explanation of the ordinance, Council President Brian Housh opened the public meeting. Both citizens and Council members asked the question: what does this mean for landlords who do not currently accept Section 8 vouchers? Lavey said that landlords would not have to act unless presented with a voucher.
“The housing authority would not pursue specific landlords unless they’ve been presented with a voucher and paperwork [and didn’t comply],” Lavey said.
Council member Lisa Kreeger noted that “some community members wanted to know if they would be required to become Section 8 landlords.”
“It sounds like if we pass this, there’s a requirement to do the application and the inspection process,” she said.
Lavey replied that, under the new ordinance, landlords do not have to pursue Section 8 tenants; however, the ordinance does prohibit landlords from turning away tenants who have a voucher.
The process moving forward will look like this: once a rental opens, a potential tenant can bring their voucher to the landlord. If the space is still available, the landlord will fill out the forms included with the voucher, which will begin a process to ensure the property meets Section 8 standards. That process includes an inspection. If the property does not meet standards, the landlord will not be able to rent to the tenant; if the property passes inspection, and the tenant meets the landlord’s other requirements, the landlord cannot turn the tenant away and must accept the voucher.
Villager Matthew Kirk asked about Council’s motivation to move forward with the legislation.
“Have we had a lot of incidents [of discrimination]?” he asked, “Or is this just something we are trying to have a progressive front on?”
Housh replied that there are currently 13 vouchers in use in Yellow Springs, “but we have anecdotal evidence that it is hard to use a voucher here.”
Yellow Springs is not the first municipality in Ohio to prohibit source-of-income discrimination. Cleveland Heights and Akron, both in northeast Ohio, passed laws earlier this year. The City of Cincinnati has forbidden “discrimination against government housing allowance recipients” since the 1990s.
Other comments from citizens included one from Gyamfi Gyamerah, who asked that Council also address discrimination against ex-felons “because no one wants to rent to a felon who has Social Security or vouchers.”
Housh said that he would be interested in taking up this topic in the future, and noted that there are not many services for those who have recently been released from incarceration.
“I definitely think that’s something we should explore,” he said.
Council passed the ordinance 4–1, with Council member Curliss being the single “no” vote.
“Because I didn’t get to ask all of my questions,” she said.
In other Council business:
Council also heard, and unanimously passed, a second reading of an ordinance that would create a new utility for Village broadband. Passing this ordinance allows the Village to accept $300,000 in grant money and move forward with extending broadband to up to 300 homes.
“We’ve talked about this for seven years and had a lot of discussion,” Housh said.
Village Manager Josué Salmerón explained that the utility will allow for better internet access and speed, referring to a broken connection earlier in Council’s meeting.
“The point you made about being difficult to hear each other affects our ability to make decisions,” he said.
Council member Marianne MacQueen asked why the Village decided to pursue its own utility rather than working with a telecom company to build infrastructure and help with services.
In response, Salmerón said that he had reached out to Cincinnati Bell and Spectrum, who were willing to build out the fiber network, but would also charge the Village extra money to do so. If the Village builds its own network, “the money stays here.”
Supporters of the broadband venture spoke to Council, explaining that having a Village-owned utility would alleviate net neutrality concerns. Tim Barhorst expressed his support.
“It’s my belief that unfettered access is a human right and should be through the public sector,” he said. “We can make internet access more affordable and we can empower village residents.”
Jordan Gray spoke about the importance of high speed connections to business owners.
“Having fiber at the municipal level lets us expand the fiber connection for the future and keeps the money locally. Having fast access is critical to me as a business owner,” he said.
Curliss praised the Village team for receiving an initial $300,000 grant, but asked about the plans if no additional grant money was available.
Salmerón said that, in addition to writing grant applications, the Village team has written a pro forma, or a financial calculation, that projects that the Village could also take out a loan to pay for the infrastructure. The Village would use internet subscription fees to repay the loan.
Additional coverage of the Sept. 20 meeting will appear in next week’s edition of the News.