Bill Introduced to Expand FHA's List of Protected Classes

Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Representative Scott Peters (D-CA) recently introduced the “Fair Housing Improvement Act” to protect veterans and low-income families from housing discrimination.

One level deeper: More than 2.3 million veterans and low-income households use vouchers to help pay rent, but there are no federal protections to prevent individuals from being denied renting an apartment because they have a voucher. This kind of discrimination is called “source of income” discrimination because the landlord is making a housing access decision based on how the household will pay for their housing. 

The bill would expand protections by adding source of income and veteran status to the list of protected classes under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, giving more individuals and families access to affordable housing. It would prohibit landlords from denying housing to individuals who use Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8), HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers, benefits received through Social Security, income received by a court order, payment from a trust or guardian, or any other lawful source of income.

One takeaway: While several states and localities have passed source of income protection laws, federal law does not protect against this type of discrimination, and state and local enforcement varies widely.