Section 8 Voucher Protections
On October 8, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 329, which will make it illegal to reject a prospective tenant solely based on the applicant’s use of a Section 8 federal housing voucher.
The State of California now classifies the Section 8 voucher as a “source of income” under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination based on source of income.
The new law will be effective January 1, 2020.
Link to Senate Bill 329: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB329
- What is Section 8?
Section 8 housing in California is a government-funded program that aims to help low-income households find low-income housing. The housing authority administers a voucher which will pay a subsidy to the homeowner while the recipient is responsible for paying a smaller portion of the rent.
- What is “Source of Income?”
Verifiable income paid directly to a tenant or to a representative of a tenant, or paid to a housing owner or landlord on behalf of a tenant, including federal, state, or local public assistance, and federal, state, or local housing subsidies, including, but not limited to, federal housing assistance vouchers issued under Section 8 of the United States Housing Act of 1937 (42 U.S.C. Sec. 1437f). “Source of income” includes a federal Department of Housing and Urban Development Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing voucher. For the purposes of this definition, a housing owner or landlord is not considered a representative of a tenant unless the source of income is a federal Department of Housing and Urban Development Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing voucher.
- Why is Section 8 a fair housing issue?
Californians receiving housing assistance are struggling to use their vouchers effectively because of blanket policies of landlords who refuse to accept it. All while, local governments are increasingly turning to housing assistance as a way of shielding tenants from high housing costs and preventing homelessness.
- Am I required to participate in Section 8?
No. Landlords are not being required to participate in Section 8. However, if the landlord chooses to move forward and accept the applicant as a tenant who has a voucher, the landlord is therefore agreeing to participate in Section 8.
- Can I advertise or say, “No Section 8?”
No, the bill prohibits housing providers from discriminating against tenants based on Section 8 voucher participation.
- Can a housing provider apply different screening criteria for voucher holders?
Under the new law, the screening criteria applied to a voucher holder must be the same criteria applied to other applicants for tenancy.
However, any income standard applied by the housing provider must be based on the portion of the rent which would be paid by the Section 8 tenant, rather than on the contract rent.
In other words, if the rental housing provider uses a three to one income to rent ratio, the landlord must base that ratio on the tenant portion of the rent. For example, if the contract rent is $1,500 and the tenant is responsible for a $600 tenant rent, then the housing provider can only require the tenant to show $1,800 in monthly income, rather than $4,500 of monthly income. A rental housing provider can establish their own standards, as long as the standards are applied equally to all applicants.
- Can a housing provider deny a section 8 applicant because of bad credit?
A housing provider can deny an applicant if the applicant does not meet their rental criteria if its applied to all applicants regardless if they are Section 8 or not.