WHEREAS, the City of Atlanta, as with many metropolitan cities around the nation, is experiencing an affordable housing crisis; and
WHEREAS, in response to this crisis, the City has implemented several measures to increase the availability of affordable housing choices; and
WHEREAS, subsidized housing vouchers is vital in providing low-income households with stable, affordable housing and expand access to a wide range of neighborhoods; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Housing and Urban Development Department (“HUD”) published a study which found that a large percentage of landlords in major cities decline to accept housing subsidy vouchers (attached as Exhibit A); and
WHEREAS, this pattern discriminates against low-income renters who are providing a lawful source of rental income and thus segregates many voucher recipients to low-income or high-poverty areas which traditionally offer more affordable rents; and
WHEREAS, housing vouchers are intended to offer access to housing in a wide array of neighborhoods where traditionally affordable housing may not otherwise be found, including those with access to jobs, good schools and other amenities that further the health and well-being of families; and
WHEREAS, Atlanta Housing reported that from July 1, 2018 through July 30, 2019, there were 1,674 Housing Choice Vouchers issued, 2,432 housing units were leased (this count includes vouchers issued prior to July 1, 2018), while 1,055 vouchers expired before families could find suitable housing; and
WHEREAS, majority of the voucher holders who were able to find housing were primarily relegated to lower socio economic areas with low performing schools and limited access to transportation; and
WHEREAS, in a resolution adopted by the American Bar Association(“ABA”) August 2017 attached hereto as Exhibit “B”, the ABA, urged municipalities to enact legislation prohibiting discrimination in housing based on lawful source of income; and
WHEREAS, several states, including Utah, Oklahoma and the District of Columbia as well as over 40 cities and counties, such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and Seattle have adopted legislation prohibiting discrimination based on source of income; and
WHEREAS, the HUD study found that in cities where this law exists, the denial rate, although still relevant, was substantially lower than states where there was no law prohibiting discrimination based on income; and
WHEREAS, according to the Housing Law Bulletin, state court rulings have enforced state and local laws that prohibit discrimination based on a person’s lawful source of income and protect the federal and state subsidy programs, finding that the protections under the laws can be invaluable in maximizing the utility of vouchers and other forms of housing assistance (see Exhibit “C”); and
WHEREAS, The City’s Human Relations Commission is authorized to receive complaints to address violations of the City’s Fair Housing Code and address illegal discrimination.
THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF ATLANTA, GEORGIA, HEREBY ORDAINS as follows:
SECTION 1: That the City’s Fair Housing law makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, place of birth, sex, sexual orientation, familial status, handicap or disability or use of support animals because of the handicap or disability of the user. Source of income is sometimes used as a proxy for race or familial status and is thus a pretext for discrimination. At a minimum, source of income discrimination has a disparate racial impact and more adversely affects one group of people already in a protected class.
SECTION 2: That the City of Atlanta Code of Ordinances Part 94 - Human Relations; Article IV- Fair Housing; Section 94-91 - Definitions; Section 94-92 - Policy and Section 94-94 - Unlawful Practice in Selling or Renting Dwellings is hereby amended as follows, with added text in bold underlined.
Sec. 94-91. - Definitions.
Source of income: Any lawful, verifiable source of income or housing assistance paid to or on behalf of a renter or buyer including, but not limited to monies from any occupation or activity, from any contract, agreement, loan or settlement, from any court-ordered payments such as child support, from payments received as gifts, bequests, annuities or life insurance policies, or from federal, state or local payments, including disability benefits and housing choice vouchers or any other rent subsidy or rent assistance program and related program requirements.
Sec. 94-92. - Policy.
The council declares that it is the policy of the city, in the exercise of its police powers for the protection of the public health, safety, and general welfare, and for the maintenance of peace and good government, to provide, within constitutional limitations, for fair housing throughout the city, free from restrictions and prejudice based upon race, color, creed, religion, sex, domestic relationship status, parental status, familial status, sexual orientation, national origin, gender identity, age, source of income and disability. The human relations commission established in article II of this chapter is vested with authority to investigate allegations of discrimination in housing and to make recommendations to the mayor and city's housing agencies and to secure a response within 30 days pursuant to the provisions of this article in furtherance of this policy and in accordance with the procedures set forth in article VI of this chapter.
Sec. 94-94. - Unlawful practices in selling or renting dwellings.
(a) Except as exempted by subsection (b) or (d) of this section or section 94-97 it
shall be unlawful:
(1) To refuse to sell or rent, after the making of a bona fide offer, or refuse to negotiate for
the sale or rental of or otherwise make unavailable or deny a dwelling to any person because of the person's, or a perception of the person's, race, color, creed, religion, sex, domestic relationship status, parental status, familial status, sexual orientation, national origin, gender identity, age, disability, or the use of a service animal, or refuse to consider any source of income in the same manner as ordinary wage income.
(2) To discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provisions of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of the person's, or a perception of the person's, race, color, creed, religion, sex, domestic relationship status, parental status, familial status, sexual orientation, national origin, gender identity, age, disability, source of income or the use of a service animal.
(3) To make, print, or publish or cause to be made printed or published any notice, statement or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling, that indicates any preference, limitation, or differential treatment, or an intention to make any such preference, limitation or differential treatment based on a person's, or the perception of a person's, race, color, creed, religion, sex, domestic relationship status, parental status, familial status, sexual orientation, national origin, gender identity, age, disability, source of income, or the use of a service animal.
(4) To represent to any person because of the person's, or a perception of the person's race, color, creed, religion, sex, domestic relationship status, parental status, familial status, sexual orientation, national origin, gender identity, age, disability, source of income, or the use of a service animal that any dwelling is not available for inspection, sale, or rental when such dwelling is in fact so available.
(5) For profit, to induce or attempt to induce any person to sell or rent any dwelling by representations regarding the entry or prospective entry into the neighborhood of a person or persons of a particular race, color, creed, religion, sex, domestic relationship status, parental status, familial status, sexual orientation, national origin, gender identity, age, disability, source of income, or the use of a service animal.
SECTION 3: This Ordinance shall be effective six (6) months from adoption by the City Council for the purpose of organizing workshops and listening sessions with private-market landlords and Atlanta Housing to provide an overview of the Housing Choice Voucher program and discuss provisions that have been implemented to protect landlords.
SECTION 4: All Ordinances or parts thereof in conflict herewith are repealed to the extent of such conflict only.