MINNEAPOLIS (March 24, 2017) — The City Council passed an ordinance on Friday prohibiting discrimination against Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher holders — a measure intended to put voucher holders on equal footing with other people seeking housing options in Minneapolis.
The Minneapolis Civil Rights Ordinance has prohibited discrimination based on receipt of public assistance for decades. Including a specific provision prohibiting discrimination against Housing Choice Voucher participants continues that tradition. Minneapolis joins nearly 60 jurisdictions across the country that have similar measures providing Housing Choice Voucher (or Section 8) protections.
The ordinance, sponsored by Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden and Council Members Abdi Warsame and Lisa Goodman, will take effect May 1, 2018. The City’s Civil Rights Department will oversee enforcement of the ordinance.
Under the ordinance, landlords will only be obligated to consider renting to voucher holders. That means a landlord can’t refuse to rent, impose unique standards, or otherwise treat HCV holders differently from tenants without vouchers. Landlords retain their ability to screen the voucher holders like other tenants using legal criteria. The ordinance also includes an undue hardship clause for landlords based on financial considerations, among other factors.
About 6 percent of the city’s rental units will be impacted by the ordinance. There are approximately 5,000 Housing Choice Voucher holders in Minneapolis and more than 1,700 families on the program’s waiting list. About 94 percent of Minneapolis voucher holders are people of color, 77 percent are women, 39 percent are people with disabilities and 53 percent are children. The average household income is $15,203.
Families who use the vouchers face an especially challenging task of finding affordable housing in Minneapolis with a tight rental market and about 75 percent of units currently priced above the program’s payment standard.
The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) is also moving forward with enhancements to its inspections program and other improvements to make the program work better for families and landlords.
In addition to the anti-discrimination ordinance, the City Council directed City staff to work with the MPHA to develop a landlord incentive fund designed to eliminate barriers to acceptance of Housing Choice Voucher holders. The City Council also directed staff to recommend changes to City housing policy to ensure City-assisted rental housing developments are in compliance with the ordinance.
A separate statement from Minneapolis Public Housing Authority said the agency welcomes the committee recommendation to prohibit discrimination against families with Housing Choice Vouchers.
“While we do not believe this change is a cure-all for the challenges voucher families face in finding affordable housing, it will be a helpful step in addressing this issue. If passed by the full Council it will require that voucher families receive the same consideration given to other prospective tenants, and eliminate the ‘No Section 8’ warning that is unfortunately all too common in rental listings. We are hopeful that the change will encourage some families to consider neighborhoods of greater opportunity, which they might previously have felt were off-limits.”
In the year until the amendment takes effect, MPHA is committed to making changes that we believe will improve the experience for property owners and create opportunities for families. These changes will include enhancements to our inspections protocol, changes to payment processes, an extension of housing-search-time, improved communication and feedback opportunities for owners, and deeper collaboration with the City of Minneapolis and other regional public housing authorities. Our initial proposed changes are online (mphaonline.org/HousingChoiceDocuments) and we look forward to providing ongoing updates as we make these improvements.