I am reposting this for Anne Punohu of Kaua'i. She needs a few more letters sent in to the Legislature in support of these two companion bills. I am impressed with what Anne has been able to do on this. If after reading this you want to write a brief letter in support of the bills, you can cc: or e-mail it to Anne and she will see to it that it gets to the Legislature:
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF SENATE BILL SB456
HOUSING – DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SOURCE OF INCOME -
Anne Punohu, organizer Kauai Fair Housing Law Coalition, HUD OK NOW!!
Hearing Re: SB456
Friday, February 13, 2009
8:30 am Rm 229
Chair: Senator Baker
Vice-Chair: Senator Ige
Committee Members et. al.:
The Kauai Fair Housing Law Coalition, a small advocacy group testifies today in support of SB456 which would prohibit landlords from discriminating against potential tenants based on the source of their income.
Decent housing is a fundamental right. The protection of the human dignity of every person and the right to a decent home require both individual action and structural policies and practices. Our concern is not simply for houses or programs but for the people who inhabit these dwellings or are affected by these programs. The statistics we cite are not simply numbers or points on a graph; they are individual human tragedies.
Governor Linda Lingle has estimated that as many as 15,000 people may be homeless in our state.
According to a recent national study, in regards to housing discrimination faced by Asians and Pacific Islanders, the discrimination rates held at 37% percent, the same rate as for African Americans. The statistics in large part came from the state of Hawaii. HUD Choice Voucher lists are currently closed on O'ahu, due to not enough people moving off the lists to make way for new people to sign up. Reports have been stated that up to 60% percent of individuals who obtained HUD Choice Vouchers were unable to use them. Not because they suddenly found a rental on their own, or came into a lot of money but because they simply could not find a rental that, in many cases would accept HUD Choice Vouchers.
Our coalition made over 250 calls to individuals who placed rental ads in our local newspaper on Kauai. At times, the rates of ads stating “No Hud” was at 40%, not including vacation rentals. Cold calls were made, sometimes 4 and 5 times to the same phone number, using different voices and personalities. 80% of the time, the caller would originally site one of three main options for their discrimination. They were: Ignorance of the HUD program, not liking HUD paperwork or inspections, or a previous bad renter.
(However, although we realize that a minute percentage of these reasons may be legitimate, we are of the opinion that these are superficial and unsubstantiated reasons for discrimination. HUD has paperwork, yes, but it is no more cumbersome than anyone else's, and the inspections are based on current codes. As for bad renters they happen without someone being on HUD.)
After these initial responses were brought forth, we continued to engage the landlords in conversation, and were able to obtain numerous statements that were made verbally stating preferences, prejudices and opinions which violated the Federal Law, such as familial status, race, age and disability, the four most frequently mentioned categories.
(In addition, after we held a public meeting, we received calls from individuals that stated that they were discriminating, but may be willing to pull their ads which made the “No HUD, or No Section 8”, voluntarily, and we also heard of some success stories where individuals which had been adverse to renting to HUD were now willing to try it.)
Our coalition is of the strong opinion that even though these may be some improvements, this law is necessary to ensure a continuing “safety net” during these most difficult of economic times for these individuals and families.
The assumption that at this time some people may be more willing to rent to HUD clients does not erase the cold hard fact that during most of these phone calls we made, the majority of those who would consider it were more concerned with how to evict the tenants rather than how to keep them.
This is a red flag to all concerned, and accurately reflects what will happen to those who may have benefited in the short term, and may suffer in the long term.
(Our coalition does want to express our general opinion that there are many rental agents and rental companies that have an excellent working relationship both with HUD agencies and clients. This law is not aimed at rental agents and rental companies. We wish to make that case very clear. This law is in the name of equity, across the board, and would involve any rental regardless of whether it came from a rental agent, a rental company or a private sector landlord.)
The case for “source of income” legislation
These households are more than a figure in a table. They are real families experiencing the tragedies of homelessness or inadequate housing. The households are made up of parents and children, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews. Each is affected by their family’s difficulty in affording an adequate place to live. Adults worry about how to pay utility, clothing, and food bills when the great majority of their income goes toward rent. When they can’t pay their rent, they strategize on moving between hotels, friends’ sofas, and shelters. Children suffer from exposure to unsafe and unstable living conditions.
The coalition holds that one of government’s primary responsibilities is to ensure that the most basic needs of its people are met. In the United States, our federal government does this, in part, through the Section 8 Rental Choice Voucher Program. Hawaii serves the housing needs of its lowest-income residents through the State’s Rental Allowance Program . However, though a family may be successful in accessing assistance through Section 8, or some other program, in most parts of Hawaii, they face yet another hurdle in their search for housing. Hawaii residents receiving housing assistance are often discriminated against in their search for housing.
It is common to see newspaper or internet ads that contain the words, “No Section 8.” It is more common for low-income Hawaii residents to hear this refrain when they inquire into available housing. Such discrimination is also faced by people who base their income, in part or in total, on disability assistance, cash assistance, child support, or alimony. To anyone who encounters it, the discrimination is frustrating and demoralizing.
Individuals and families having the lawful means to rent or buy housing should not be denied that housing based on where those means come from. Those with the income, credit-worthiness, and other applicable credentials to rent or buy – the single mom depending on child-support payments, the low-income family depending on a Section 8 voucher, the man depending on disability assistance, the elderly couple depending on a pension – none should be denied the opportunity to rent or buy because their incomes don’t come entirely from a job.
Recognizing housing as a fundamental human right, and also the severe hardships – including discrimination – low-income Hawaii residents face in finding housing they can afford, we respectfully ask that you give SB456 a favorable report. Thank you for your consideration.
HOUSING – DISCRIMINATION BASED ON SOURCE OF INCOME
Sponsor: Senator Gary Hooser
What does SB 456 do?
SB456 prohibits “source of income” discrimination against those seeking housing. That is, the bill prohibits landlords/sellers from discriminating against potential renters/buyers based on the source of their income.
What does “source of income” mean?
“Source of income” means any lawful source of money to be used in the rental or purchase of housing. It includes money from: (1) any lawful profession or occupation; (2) any government or private assistance, grant, loan, or rental assistance program, including Section 8 vouchers; (3) any gift, inheritance, pension, annuity, alimony, child support, or other consideration; (4) and any sale of property.
What does SB456 NOT do?
SB 4561 does NOT prohibit a landlord/seller from determining the ability of a potential renter/buyer to pay a rent/purchase price, by: (1) verifying the source and amount of income of the renter/buyer; and (2) evaluating the stability, security, and credit‐worthiness of the renter/buyer or their source of income.
SB 456 does NOT prevent a landlord/seller from refusing to consider income derived from any criminal activity.
Who would benefit from the passage of SB 456?
Individuals and families planning to rent/buy housing, in part or in full, with income from Section 8 vouchers, Rental Allowance Program subsidies, disability payments, Temporary Cash Assistance grants, pensions, alimony, child support, and other lawful sources of income.
Why should SB456 be passed?
Individuals and families having the lawful means to rent/buy housing should not be denied that housing, based on where those means come from. Those with the income, credit‐worthiness, and other applicable credentials to rent/buy – the single mom depending on child‐support payments, the low‐income family depending on a Section 8 voucher, the man depending on disability payments, the elderly couple depending on a pension – none should be denied the opportunity to rent/buy because their incomes don’t come entirely from a job.
Does source of income discrimination happen?
Yes. It is common for landlords to refuse to consider applicants who will use a Section 8 voucher as part of their rental payment. This makes it difficult for Section 8 recipients – who may have spent years on waiting lists before receiving the vouchers – to find places where they can be used. It may also have the effect of clustering voucher users in the poorest sections of a community, where landlords receive few rental applicants.
Is source of income discrimination already prohibited in other places?
Yes. In Maryland, Howard and Montgomery Counties have laws prohibiting source of income discrimination, as does the city of Frederick. Nationwide, twelve states (CA, CT, ME, MA, MN, NJ, ND, OK, OR, UT, VT, WI) and the District of Columbia have housing laws that prohibit source of income discrimination. Several cities and counties – including, as of last month, New York City , and now the State of New York– also have such laws.
Kauai Fair Housing Law Coalition