The Virginia House of Delegates passed House Bill 6 (HB 6) on March 4, advancing fair housing protections for renters who use Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV). The bill would add discrimination on the basis of a person’s source of funds to the list of unlawful discriminatory housing practices. Although HB 6 covers all sources of income, the impetus for introducing the bill was to prevent landlords from rejecting applicants who use housing vouchers. The bill applies to prospective renters and homeowners. Delegate Jeff Bourne (D) authored and introduced the bill, which passed the House 57-38 with modest bi-partisan support. It passed the Senate on March 3 by a vote of 25-15.
Numerous advocates and organizations throughout Virginia were essential in achieving this victory, including Virginia Housing Alliance, an NLIHC state partner, Northern Virginia Housing Alliance, an NLIHC member, and Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) of Virginia.
Delegate Bourne, who is a landlord, noted that he has heard troubling stereotypes from other landlords regarding HCV households that cause landlords to refuse to accept HCVs, limiting options for residents who are searching for places to live. Consequently, families with HCVs often have to use their vouchers in high-poverty, low-opportunity neighborhoods, further hindering their chances for success. The bill would increase access to safe, accessible, affordable housing for low-income renters in Virginia who previously may have been denied a lease.
Striving for even more progress on fair housing, Delegate Bourne is also sponsoring a bill that would ban officials from discriminating against affordable housing projects by enacting restrictive zoning and permitting policies. While these types of bills failed in last year’s GOP-controlled General Assembly, Mr. Bourne is optimistic about finding the support needed with newly elected delegates.
HB 6 now heads to Governor Ralph Northam (D) who will likely sign the bill into law. Governor Northam recently indicated strong support for solutions that advance housing opportunity.
"We've been working on this legislation for close to ten years,” said Brian Koziol, executive director of Virginia Housing Alliance. “The sustained, collaborative effort by numerous organizations finally resulted in a true victory for households using vouchers."