Sen. Harold M. Metts, D-Providence, has reintroduced a bill that would prohibit landlords from using the source of income as a reason to exclude tenants or potential tenants. The bill is intended to address landlords who discriminate against recipients of Section 8 housing funds, or other types of assistance, including child support or disability benefits.
Section 8 is the common name for the Housing Choice Vouchers Program, administered by housing authorities, which is a federal subsidy paid to private landlords to cover housing costs beyond 30 percent of a tenant’s income. It is most often accessed by very low-income, disabled and elderly residents. Metts spoke to the Providence Business News about the legislation.
PBN: What inspired your bill?
METTS: I represent a very diverse community. Part of it is … in Washington Park, where there’s a lot of homeowners, and there is a section on the South Side that has a lot of homeless and homeless shelters. This is a concern, the discrimination against renters who have Section 8.
PBN: Are landlords seeing an application in which a portion or all of the rent money is going to come from Section 8 or disability payments, and then they decide [they] don’t want this renter?
METTS: They will put on Craigslist that they don’t want Section 8 people. I’m trying to make it illegal.
PBN: How common is this?
METTS: All the public housing authorities … they’re making the push for it this year. They’re the ones who issue the [vouchers]. When some people think of low-income, there may be some parts of the community that they don’t want in their community.
PBN: The bill allows landlords to examine sources of income to determine if the tenant has the ability to cover the rent, but they cannot discriminate based on the source of the income. How do you enforce that?
METTS: You might have several Section 8 people who apply for the same apartment. And they all get rejected. Then someone comes along, and it’s given to them? I’m not a lawyer. When they hear the bill … I am sure I’m going to hear from those opposed to the bill, their arguments.
PBN: The bill excludes owner-occupied units of three units or less. Why exempt these?
METTS: The main people we are going after, in my humble opinion, would be the landlords that don’t want to keep up their standards.
Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at macdonald@PBN.com.