Tucson, Arizona, took action against housing discrimination by passing a new source-of-income ordinance on September 27. The measure received unanimous support from Tucson city council members and Mayor Regina Romero. By enacting the ordinance, Tucson joins a growing list of cities and states passing legislation to protect renters like those receiving assistance through Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs) from discrimination by landlords based on their source of income.
Tucson’s new ordinance is the latest policy development in the comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy Plan for Tucson (HAST). The plan is intended to ensure that Tucson residents who have received housing vouchers encounter significantly fewer barriers in their search for housing. Tucson’s Department of Housing and Community Development has already made significant efforts to streamline the Housing Choice Voucher process for both landlords and voucher holders by reducing turnaround time on inspections, expediting payments to landlords, and developing a Landlord Support Team.
Joanna Carr, research and policy director of the Arizona State Housing Coalition, an NLIHC state partner, believes such supports will work in tandem with the source-of-income ordinance to increase housing stability for low-income renters. “We believe a Source of Income Ordinance must be paired with an efficient process for the Housing Choice Voucher program to ensure its success, since landlords are an essential piece of the puzzle,” said Carr. “We wouldn't want property owners leaving the rental market due to inefficiencies in the program, for example. Therefore, with the work done on improving the process for landlords, Tucson was a good municipality to set the example for others to follow in Arizona.”
Some landlord advocacy groups, such as the Arizona Multihousing Authority (AMA), have pushed back against the ordinance. “Though we fought the ordinance from day one and worked with the Tucson Department of Housing to find alternatives, at the end of the day the Mayor and Council were determined to pass the ordinance despite the legal and practical concerns that we raised,” explained a representative of the group. “Please know that AMA will continue to review all options to overturn the ordinance as we believe it to be a violation of Arizona statutes. We will also be working in all local jurisdiction that are considering following the City of Tucson down this path.”
Despite this pushback, Mayor Romero made clear her continuing commitment to improving the housing outcomes of voucher holders in the city. “I have heard story after story after story of people who have housing vouchers who come to me and tell me ‘they don’t accept Section 8’,” Romero said. “Our residents, no matter how they pay for rents, deserve to be housed.”
More information on Tucson’s source-of-income ordinance can be found at: https://sourceofincome.tucsonaz.gov/