Senate votes to eliminate ‘source of income’
housing discrimination

 

STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Meghan E. Kallman to prohibit discrimination against tenants because of the source of their income.

The bill is primarily aimed at preventing landlords from refusing to rent to Rhode Islanders who receive Section 8 Housing Choice vouchers, although it also prevents discrimination based on any source of income, such as Social Security, veteran’s benefits, disability, or child support.

“Rhode Island’s housing crisis makes it difficult enough for people to find decent housing that they can afford. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this harder, and for people who receive vouchers, the hurdles are even higher. ‘No Section 8’ is a regular feature in the apartment listings here,” said Senator Kallman (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence). “Source of income discrimination is severely restricting an already limited apartment supply. It is sending voucher recipients into poor, unsafe housing. It’s also just as insidious as any other type of discrimination. It’s a pretext for keeping people out of certain housing or neighborhoods, and we must put an end to it in Rhode Island.”

The legislation (2021-S 0561) adds “lawful source of income” to the list of statuses — such as race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and marital status —  that landlords may not use as a basis for their decisions about to whom they will rent, or which units they will rent to them. The bill would not apply to owner-occupied dwellings of three units or less.

The bill defines “lawful sources of income” as income or other assistance derived from Social Security; Supplemental Security Income; any other federal, state or local general public assistance, including medical or veterans assistance; any federal, state or local housing assistance, including Section 8 Housing; child support or alimony.

In addition to protecting tenants from being refused housing based on their income, the bill protects them from other unlawful housing practices, including segregation.

Landlords would still be able to ask whether a prospective tenants is at least 18 years old, and be allowed to verify a prospective tenant’s income, its source and its expected duration only for the purpose of confirming the renter’s ability to pay rent.

“Source of income discrimination is one more roadblock that compounds the struggles of poor people. Eliminating senseless barriers like this one gives more people a chance to find a safe place to live, and safe, stable housing is the number one determinant of family security,” said Senator Kallman.

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives, which on March 2 approved companion legislation (2021-H 5257aa) sponsored by Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence).

The Senate bill is cosponsored by Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Sen. Frank A. Ciccone III (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence), Sen. Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence), Sen. Tiara Mack (D-Dist. 6, Providence), Sen. Jonathon Acosta (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket), Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) and Sen. Melissa A. Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield).

 

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