Source of Income Discrimination in Housing

Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher holders across the country find it difficult finding a suitable rental home. Many of these failed rental searches stem from landlords who have blanket policies against accepting Section 8 voucher holders. In most areas, landlords are permitted under the law to openly discriminate against voucher holders. A simple search in your local Craigslist for rent listings will typically yield many ads containing the words “No Section 8”.

In many areas of the country, this problem has become so bad that many new voucher recipients can’t find a landlord willing to accept their voucher and they actually lose their voucher before they ever can benefit from it, many times after waiting for years on a waiting list.

In Oakland, CA, only 115 of 609 voucher recipients (18.9%) in the area found a unit with their voucher in 2015. According to the Chattanooga Housing Authority (CHA) in Tennessee, about two-thirds of the housing authority’s new voucher recipients lose their voucher before funding a unit. As a result, the CHA now hosts landlord fairs that allow voucher holders to have face-to-face conversations with several landlords who are looking for tenants.

Even cities that have laws protecting voucher holders can face source of income discrimination. According to the New York City Commission on Human Rights 2015 Annual Report, source of income discrimination complaints quadrupled from 2014 to 2015.

A few states, counties and cities in recent years have tried to address this problem by enacting Source of Income (SOI) discrimination laws. These laws typically include one’s source of income as a protected class under equal housing and other anti-discrimination ordinances.

In many areas of the country, SOI discrimination is controversial. Landlords and apartment associations argue that SOI discrimination legislation mandates landlords to participate in a government program that puts onerous regulations, paperwork and costs on them. In Texas, after the City of Austin passed a SOI discrimination ordinance in 2014, the Austin Apartment Association sued to repeal the ordinance. Acting exactly the opposite of state governments like Oregon and Connecticut, in 2015 the Texas legislature passed legislation that not only overturned Austin’s ordinance but prohibits any municipality in Texas from enacting SOI discrimination legislation.

So voucher holders know their rights and whether there are SOI discrimination laws in their area, we maintain a list of jurisdictions that protect Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher holders from source of income discrimination.


Where are Renters protected by Source of Income Anti Discrimination Laws?

As of November 2016, there are 42 jurisdictions1 that prohibit discrimination against Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher holders. These jurisdictions are:

States with SOI Discrimination Protection for Section 8 voucher holders

  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Vermont

Counties with SOI Discrimination Protection for Section 8 voucher holders

  • Miami-Dade County, Florida
  • Cook County, Illinois
  • Howard County, Maryland
  • Montgomery County, Maryland
  • Nassau County, New York
  • Westchester County, New York
  • King County, Washington
  • Dane County, Wisconsin

Cities with SOI Discrimination Protection for Section 8 voucher holders

  • Corte Madera, California
  • East Palo Alto, California
  • Los Angeles, California4
  • San Francisco, California
  • Santa Monica, California
  • Woodland, California5
  • Urbana, Illinois
  • Iowa City, Iowa
  • Frederick, Maryland
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Saint Louis, Missouri
  • Buffalo, New York
  • New York, New York
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Borough of State College, Pennsylvania
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • Bellevue, Washington6
  • Kirkland, Washington2
  • Redmond, Washington3
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Tumwater, Washington
  • Vancouver, Washington
  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • Syracuse, New York

Jurisdictions with proposed legislation for Section 8 voucher holders

  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Maryland
  • New York

The jurisdictions included in the lists above have passed laws specifically protecting persons who receive Section 8 or government assistance. While there are additional jurisdictions that have laws protecting source of income discrimination, we have not included those jurisdictions unless persons who receive Section 8 or government assistance were specifically identified.


Where is it prohibited to enact Source of Income Anti-Discrimination Laws?

States with prohibitions on enacting SOI Anti-Discrimination Laws for Section 8 voucher holders

  • Texas

Jurisdictions with proposed prohibitions for Section 8 voucher holders

  • Santa Monica, California
  • Utah

As lawmakers across the country continue to enact legislation affecting Source of Income Discrimination this page will be updated. For more information on this topic read our article at https://affordablehousingonline.com/blog/law-aims-to-end-section-8-source-of-income-discrimination/


1. Most of this information was obtained by a report from the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, which was last updated in May 2016. We are in process of independently verifying the information provided in this report.

2. The law states that “this section shall only apply with respect to a Section 8 certificate if the monthly rent on such residential unit is within the allowable rent as established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. ‘Dwelling unit’ shall have the meaning set forth in KZC 5.250.” (Ord. 4384 § 2 (part), 2013).”

3. The law states that, "this section shall only apply with respect to a Section 8 certificate if the monthly rent on such residential unit is within the allowable rent as established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. ‘Dwelling unit’ shall have the meaning set forth in RZC 21.78.” Furthermore, the law states that, “Nothing in this chapter shall…apply to the renting, sub-renting, leasing, or subleasing of a single-family dwelling, wherein the owner or person entitled to possession thereof maintains a permanent residence, home or abode;…be interpreted to prohibit any person from making a choice among prospective purchasers or tenants of real property on the basis of factors other than participation in a Section 8 program;…prohibit a religious organization, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society, from limiting the sale, rental, or occupancy of dwellings which it owns or operates for other than a commercial purpose to persons of the same religion, or from giving preference to such persons, unless membership in such religion is restricted on the basis of race, color, or national origin;…be construed to prohibit treating disabled persons more favorably than persons who are not disabled;…be construed to protect criminal conduct; and…prohibit any person from limiting the rental or occupancy of a dwelling based on the use of force or violent behavior by an occupant or prospective occupant, including behavior intended to produce or incite imminent force or violence to the person or property of the owner, manager, or other agent of the owner. (Ord. 2645 § 1 (part), 2012).”

4. According to a report by the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, "The state law is augmented by ordinances in several California cities, including Los Angeles...which do explicitly bar voucher discrimination." However, the only further text about Los Angeles, CA states "Please consult a California attorney for advice on the applicability of the following local ordinances. The case of Apartment Ass'n, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, 136 Cal. App. 4th 119 (2006) held that a Los Angeles ordinance, LAMC 151.04, which prohibits landlords from raising the rent after opting out of the Section 8 voucher program, was preempted by state law." This ruling does not specifically state that voucher holders are protected, and we found no other source of a law that explicitly protects voucher holders.

5. According to a report by the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, "The state law is augmented by ordinances in several California cities, including...Woodland...which do explicitly bar voucher discrimination." However, we found no source of a law that explicitly protects voucher holders.

6. The law states that “this section shall only apply with respect to a Section 8 certificate if the monthly rent on such residential unit is within the allowable rent as established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.”