The Atlanta City Council passed Measure 20-O-1155 on February 17, prohibiting landlords from rejecting people applying to rent a home based on the applicant’s source of income, including denying applicants who use federal housing vouchers. Atlanta is the first municipality in the state to prohibit landlord discrimination against applicants intending to use a housing voucher.
Council Members Antonio Brown and Amir R. Farokhi introduced the ordinance, which was approved by a vote of 13-2. Housing advocates celebrated the passage of the historic measure, which will increase access to affordable, accessible housing for low-income Atlanta residents. Georgia Advancing Communities Together (Georgia ACT), an NLIHC state partner, encouraged community members to attend the city council meeting on Monday to show support for the ordinance. “It’s unfortunate that there has been a stigma placed on people who have vouchers,” said Bambie Hayes-Brown, CEO of Georgia ACT. “The vast majority of people who have vouchers are working families, the disabled, and senior citizens.”
Source-of-income discrimination creates significant barriers to safe, accessible, affordable housing for low-income renters. Landlord discrimination against voucher households disproportionately impacts low-income seniors, people with disabilities, people of color, and families with children. Atlanta Housing (the public housing agency) reported that between July 2018 and July 2019, 1,055 Housing Choice Vouchers expired before families could find suitable housing. Most of the voucher households who did obtain housing were steered into low-opportunity areas that have limited access to transportation and low-performing schools.
Council Member Brown expressed that the source-of-income discrimination ban will increase access to equitable housing in Atlanta and considers the new ordinance a natural, common-sense extension of fair housing codes that protect renters based on race, gender, and age.
The City of Atlanta’s Department of Law proposed an amendment to prevent the ordinance from taking effect until Georgia passes a similar statewide ban, but after lengthy discussions with city attorneys, council members rejected that proposal. A spokesperson for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms gave no comment when asked about the mayor’s position by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The ordinance now heads to Mayor Bottoms for her signature. She will likely sign the source-of-income discrimination ban because it was included in her housing policy priorities plan released in June of 2019.
In addition, the council passed Resolution 20-R-3291 encouraging the Georgia General Assembly to pass statewide legislation prohibiting landlords from refusing to accept housing vouchers as rental income.
Measure 20-O-1155 is at: https://bit.ly/3c17Bsy
More about the ordinance is at: https://bit.ly/2uknyZN
More information on the Housing Choice Voucher program is on page 4-1 of NLIHC’s 2019 Advocates’ Guide.