Ending housing discrimination based on source of income

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With the list of people in need of housing assistance vouchers growing every day, it is important that landlords not discriminate against those receiving vouchers when it comes to renting apartments. The federal Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) known as “Section 8,” allows recipients to pay 30 percent of their income for rent, the rest being covered by the voucher. Right now over 20,000 Rhode Island households are on the waiting list for these kind of vouchers. However, some landlords refuse to rent to those with Section 8 vouchers. They even run ads on Craigslist and state, right in the ad, “No Section 8.”

“The source of income bill has become one of our priority bills this year,” said Victoria Strang, director and lead organizer of the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty. “As some of you may know, I am new to the state, I moved here in October and I can tell you, after having met with people across the state… one of the major issues that I have heard people talk about is lack of affordable housing.”

H7528 and S2301, said Strang, will “open up housing to a lot more low-income Rhode Islanders,” by disallowing landlords from discriminating against tenants with vouchers.

Strang was speaking to some three dozen people in the Rhode Island State House Library ahead of a lobby day effort, where constituents are encouraged to seek out and talk to their state representatives and senators and advocate for legislation.

Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser who serves at Temple Sinai in Cranston presented the religious case for fair and affordable housing. “The Talmud proclaims that it is the obligation of the community to provide for a poor person who is financially unable to house his family,” said Goldwasser. “The community, says the Talmud, must rent a house for him, arrange for him a bed.”

“Source of income discrimination is real,” said Stephen Vadnais, executive director of the Pawtucket Housing Authority. “If you look at Craigslist ads, you can see that maybe half the ads say, ‘no Section 8.’ Not only do they say, ‘no Section 8’ it’s how they say ‘no Section 8.’ They say, in bold, ‘No smoking. No pets. No Section 8.‘ To me, that’s really code for discrimination.”

The proposed legislation would not apply to owner-occupied buildings with three or fewer units, and would not prevent landlords from inquiring about a tenant’s income level.

13 states and Washington DC plus 62 counties and municipalities have laws prohibiting discrimination based on source of income. This includes Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont.

Representative Anastasia Williams (Democrat, District 9, Providence) is the sponsor of the House bill.

Senator Harold Metts Democrat, (District 6, Providence) is the sponsor for the Senate bill.

See this Providence Journal piece by Christine Dunn for more information: R.I. bill seeks to end Section 8 stigma

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About Steve Ahlquist 1078 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade.Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.atomicsteve@gmail.com


  1. Yes , every landlord hould have a right to agree to it or not. But NOT to advertize that you will not taking sec 8.at all.. If you cared enough you’d interview the families, access public records, references, and maybe decide on a case by case basis??? instead….people really really in need like myself. Who has no record, no drug abuse, two honor students involved in sports and I’m without family support. I’m depressed and alone and struggle with many traumas. But I am a great mom trying to get the best I can for them and then people like you are all or nothing and many many MANY normal poor people are out there. Not all will destroy and cause hell. I’ve been in such a terrible place bc of these privately owned subsidies. AND slumlords. It works both ways. Your just another narrow-minded self-centered landlord that most people out there would be grateful not to have you think outside the box judge people on the personal story and on what you can see and prove in their daily life that do trust and believe they will Beaker tenants regardless if the government pays you or if they do did person to have have a chance for an interview
    lives and not by how much they make

  2. These laws being passed by local or state governments are unconstitutional. A PA judge just found such a law passed in the city of Philadelphia unconstitional. There are several other lawsuits making their way through various courts. Section 8 is a VOLUNTARY federal government program which landlords can chose to participant in or not. Chosing not to participate is not discrimination, it is the right of the landlord to do or not to do based on their own individual circumstances.

    Until a case makes its way to SCOTUS and these laws are found unconstitutional on the national level my advise to landlords is this. Don’t advertise your properties, not on the internet, not in paper, no signs, no public press whatsoever. Utilize your personal and business contacts to find tenants. Application requirements should be applied to everyone fairly. No less that 650 credit score, no eviction history and no criminal history. $150.00 application fee per adult applying. No pets, no smoking. First, Last and matching security deposit in the form of a cashiers check from a bank. Renter must have a checking account and set up automatic withdrawals.

    Keep your current renters happy. Don’t raise the rent on a quality market rate tenant just because you can. If you making a profit then be content with it, keep your properties full and well maintained. You do not have to get involved with Section 8 if you don’t want to. Follow these common sense steps and you should not have any issues

    • Source of income protections have existed for decades in other states and municipalities (for instance, it’s been the law in Massachusetts since the 70’s), and aren’t even arguably unconstitutional.

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  1. Stage set for progressives to take control of Rhode Island
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