Who wouldn’t want to live in a self-proclaimed “weird” college town? But landlords are struggling with a new city ordinance that they say will force them to rent apartments to a different set of renters – those on public housing assistance.
Austin Apartment Association Sues the City
The Austin Apartment Association is working on blocking the controversial new ordinance that the city passed in December. What Austin’s city council is calling a “source of income ordinance” would make it illegal for landlords to deny renting their property on the grounds that the renter uses public assistance vouchers as a source of income.
Landlords are saying renting to people who receive public housing assistance makes bad business sense and is against state and federal laws, which is why the Austin Apartment Association filed suit less than 24 hours after the city passed the ordinance.
While the law was supposed to go into effect on Jan. 12, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks made the decision to put it on hold until after the hearing for the lawsuit, which is scheduled for late in January.
“Every property owner wants good residents,” AAA President Robbie Robinson said in a statement after the organization filed suit. “What we don’t want is a forced partnership with a governmental agency that significantly impacts business and operations.”
Robinson also said the city had every opportunity to create a voluntary program for landlords to be a part of, but that they chose to go a negative route.
What is Section 8 Housing Assistance?
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8, is a federal program that provides housing assistance to families with very low income, people with disabilities and elderly people.
Local public housing agencies provide the vouchers, and the people getting assistance are responsible for finding a place to live. When they do, the local public housing agency pays the landlord a certain amount of rent directly, and the person or family with the voucher is responsible for paying the difference.
Some of the people taking part in the Section 8 program in Austin have found it very difficult to find a place to live before their vouchers are no longer valid. There are very few landlords who accept them – which makes it seem unlikely that landlords would take part in a voluntary program.
Plus, while landlords disagree with the forced participation in the government program, for some residents who can’t afford housing otherwise, the vouchers are a necessity.
Members of the Austin City Council disagree with the way landlords and the association are interpreting the ordinance, saying it isn’t actually forcing anybody to rent to people with Section 8 vouchers. They say the law’s main goal is to prohibit discrimination.
Whether this ordinance is legal or not will be decided in court, but one thing is definitely certain: The lack of affordable housing is becoming an even bigger problem nationwide.