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Proposed bill would protect voucher holders and veterans from housing discrimination

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A new bill proposed in Congress would make it illegal for landlords to deny applicants just because they use public assistance to pay the rent.

Low-income renters often spend years on a waiting list trying to get a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher. But once they get their rental assistance, it can be hard to find a landlord that will accept their voucher. 

The Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2022 would ban source of income (SOI) discrimination througout the country. It would also bar landlords from discriminating against veterans and active military service members.

The bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and in the House by Representative Scott Peters (D-CA).

When announcing the bill, Senator Kaine stressed why these protections are so important. 

“As a former fair housing attorney, I’ve witnessed how affordable housing can provide stability and open the door to opportunity – but I’ve also seen how housing discrimination unjustly locks people out of that opportunity.”

Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)

The bill proposes adding “source of income,” “veteran status,” and “military status” to the list of protected classes under the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to deny housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation) familial status, and disability.

Adding source of income to the Fair Housing Act’s protected classes would protect low-income renters throughout the entire country. Just a few states and local jurisdictions have laws banning discrimination based on a tenant’s source of income.

Only one in three households with voucher lives in a place with laws against source of income discrimination. In places without these protections, it is perfectly legal for landlords to reject applicants just because they have a voucher.

Homeless veterans have sometimes had trouble finding landlords to accept VASH vouchers. These are Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers coupled with supportive services to help veterans regain stable housing. The program has played a large role in reducing homelessness among veterans over the past decade.

Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers are a life-saver for millions of low-income renters. But discrimination against people relying on this assistance not only puts families at risk of homelessness. It also limits housing choice and maintains segregated neighborhoods.

This legislation would make it significantly easier for Section 8 voucher holders to find housing.

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