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Proposed St Louis County Ordinance Would Require Landlords To Accept Section 8

A bill introduced by St Louis County Councilmember Lisa Clancy would require landlords in unincorporated St Louis County to participate in the Section 8 program as well as pretty much any other rental subsidy program.  St Louis County bill number 102 (see complete bill at bottom of article), introduced by Councilmember Clancy, if passed, would amend the existing St Louis County “Fair Housing Code” ordinance adding “lawful source of income” to the list of things that a landlord cannot discriminate based upon.

The St Louis County Fair Housing Ordinance (section 717.020) currently makes it unlawful for landlords to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or familial status.  Currently included in the protected classes under St Louis County law, which are not included in the Federal Fair Housing Act, are “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”.  In addition, St Louis County has “gender” as a class instead of “sex” as is in the Federal Fair Housing Act.  If St Louis County Council bill 102 passes and becomes an ordinance, then “lawful source of income” will be an additional protected class and will be another one that is not in the Federal Fair Housing Act.

There are other municipalities, counties, and states around the country that have passed similar legislation as well. As to be expected, legislation like this has been met with a mixed response.  

Is it discriminatory for a landlord to refuse to accept Section 8, Vouchers and the like?

Before I even begin, here is my caveat.  Seek legal advice on this matter, I’m not an attorney, everything written here is my commentary on the topic and, the best I can tell, there is not necessarily a clear answer to this question and, the answer will vary depending upon the city, county and/or state your property is located in.  Ok, having said all that, the short answer is, HUD does not have any regulations that require a landlord to accept Section 8 or Vouchers and, the program, and it’s recipients, do not appear to be covered under the Federal Fair Housing Act.  So, presently, in St Louis County, I do believe a landlord can make the choice not to rent their property Section 8 if they choose.

Is it a disparate impact issue though?

Disparate impact describes housing discrimination that is not intended but is the result of legislation, an act, etc.  Some make the argument that a landlord refusing to accept a Section 8 tenant has this impact since the majority of the tenants in this program are members of one or more of the classes of individuals protected under the Federal Fair Housing Act.

Why wouldn’t a landlord want to accept Section 8 or Vouchers?

I should point out, in the case of the bill proposed by Councilmember Clancy, we are not talking about just Section 8 or voucher programs administered by the housing authority as the bill gives many examples of the types of “income” that must be accepted.  The bill   states “Lawful source of income includes but is not limited to income from Section 8 or other subsidy program, short or long- term federal, state or local government, private nonprofit, or other assistance programs in which a tenant’s rent is paid either partially by the program (through a direct arrangement between the program and the owner or lessor of the real property), and partially by the tenant or completely by the
program. Other subsidy programs which are lawful sources of income include but are not limited to HUD-Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers, Housing and Essential Needs (HEN) funds, and short-term rental assistance provided by Rapid
Rehousing subsidies.’

So, we are talking about a wide range of organizations that a landlord will be required to deal with.  Speaking from experience, this is the issue for landlords:  the requirements of the various organizations that fund these subsidies or administer them, their inspections, requirements, paperwork, etc and not the program participants themselves.  For example, if a landlord accepts a market tenant in unincorporated St Louis County, they need to have the home or unit inspected by St Louis County for occupancy but then, once passed, can move the tenant right in.  If the same landlord accepts a Section 8 tenant, then, in addition to the St Louis County inspection, the property will need to be inspected by a Section 8 inspector.  In addition, there will be required lease addendums and lease terms the landlord must agree to whether they want to or not.  There will most likely be a delay in getting the tenant in the property due to the additional inspections, paperwork, and approval.

What you can do about this..

Typically, when I write an article like this, I receive inquires from people that want to know how to take action so I’ll save some time and include it here.  If you are opposed to this bill and want your voice to be heard, or if you are in favor of it and want to encourage it’s passage, then I would suggest you contact your St Louis County Councilmember as well as the bills sponsor, Councilmember Lisa Clancy.  Contact information for the current council is below:

Bill sponsor, St Louis County Councilmember LIsa Clancy (District 5):

St Louis County Councilmember Tom Fitch (District 3):

  • Phone 314.615.5438
  • Email tfitch@stlouisco.com

St Louis County Councilmember Rochelle Walton Gray (District 4):

St Louis County Councilmember Ernie Trakas (District 6):

St Louis County Councilmember Mark Harder (District 7):

St Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page:

  • Phone 314.615.7016
  • Email spage@stlouisco.com

St Louis County Council Bill 102 Proposed by Councilmember Clancy:

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