American Bar Association

ABA backs legislation that would bar housing bias against people based on income source

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ABA President Bob Carlson is applauding a bill that would expand the protections of the Fair Housing Act to prevent discrimination based on a person’s lawful source of income.

Last year, the ABA House of Delegates adopted policy urging the implementation of such legislation and opposing prejudice against people who rely on government support to make ends meet, Carlson said in the Nov. 14 letter.

Carlson praised the bill in a letter to its sponsors, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, who posted press releases here and here. The bill, called the Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2018, would bar housing discrimination based on income source or veteran status, according to the press releases.

“Every year, families are denied housing opportunities simply because their lawful and sufficient income is not accepted by a property owner,” Carlson wrote. “These denials occur often for persons who rely on support from the government for their housing.”

Fifteen states and more than 72 jurisdictions currently prohibit source-of-income discrimination in some form, according to Carlson.

Landlords sometimes reject people because they receive Supplemental Security Income or military-service-connected disability compensation, the letter said. In such cases, the rejection may be pretextual and intended to exclude people who have disabilities.

The discrimination most often occurs, the letter said, when landlords refuse to accept tenants who use the Housing Choice Voucher Program. Such vouchers provide federal rent subsidies to make private-market housing affordable. In some places, almost 50 percent of people receiving the vouchers are unable to use them before they expire.

Vouchers for veterans, which are a subset of the program, are called Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers.

“We stand ready to work with you in advancing this vitally important legislation,” Carlson wrote.

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