Source of Income
Source of income, or source of funds, became a protected class in the Virginia Fair Housing Law on July 1, 2020. It is unlawful to discriminate because of any source that lawfully provides funds to or on behalf of a renter or buyer of housing, including any assistance, benefit, or subsidy program, whether such program is administered by a governmental or nongovernmental entity. This includes:
- Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8)
- Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH)
- Emergency rental assistance from nonprofit entities
- And others
The Housing Choice Voucher Program is the nation’s largest rental assistance program helping more than 5 million people in 2.2 million low-income families afford private rental housing. In Virginia, approximately 113,200 people (46,300 households) use vouchers to afford housing. In 2012, HOME contacted 124 apartment complexes in the Richmond metro region to determine if they accepted vouchers. Just 33(26.6%) replied that they did. In late 2018, using an online rental listing website, HOME contacted 139 apartment complexes across the region. Just 26 (18.75%) accepted vouchers. Extending Virginia’s fair housing laws to protect source of income will help deconcentrate poverty and desegregate neighborhoods.
Examples of discrimination include:
- Housing providers stating “no section 8” in their rental listings.
- A landlord making demeaning comments about whether or not a tenant deserves their disability benefits.
- Refusing to rent to an otherwise well qualified tenant because of stereotypes about people who receive financial assistance.
Landlords and housing providers will not be forced to accept every applicant – or any applicant – who will pay with a voucher or other lawful source of income. However, as per the new fair housing laws, landlords will be required to treat these applicants like all others, which includes looking at credit and rental history, sufficiency of funds, and adhering to a background check. A landlord would not be able to simply deny them because they will pay with a rent voucher or other lawful alternative incomes.