The City of Gainesville Updates it's Fair Housing Code
After much deliberation, the City of Gainesville recently passed Ordinance 190814. NCFAA worked diligently to communicate our concerns with the ordinance to the city over the past several months. This ordinance amended the fair housing section of their code of ordinances and will go into effect immediately. The amendments included new definitions, a renaming of the equal opportunity office, and the addition of the following new protected classes: citizenship, lawful source of income, veteran status, and status as a victim of domestic violence, victim of dating violence, or victim of stalking.
Lawful Source of Income
Lawful source of income means any lawful and verifiable source of income whether or not the income is received directly or indirectly and includes supplemental income, such as assistance from the Housing Choice Voucher Program or “Section 8” vouchers. This provision is commonly referred to as “source of income.” This means that housing providers cannot deny someone housing solely on the basis of someone’s source of their income. The addition of this protected class changes the ability for a housing provider to choose whether or not they want to accept Section 8 vouchers. All housing providers within the city and the county (Source of income is also a protected class in Alachua County) must accept Section 8 vouchers so long as the applicant qualifies for the housing they are seeking. As a result of these policy changes, property owners in Gainesville must consider a Section 8 Voucher when assessing an individual’s application and determining their ability to pay rent. This also does not mean the housing provider must accept the individual soley based on their source of income, they will still have to meet the other criteria that all other applicants must meet as well. Unfortunately this program is riddled with problems, inefficiencies and requires the housing provider to adapt their business model to meet the demands of the program. This program was developed at the federal level to be voluntary, therefore, giving housing providers the option to mold their business model around it. NCFAA over the past several months, communicated with the city in an effort to amend the ordinance in an effort to make it friendlier to housing providers. Unfortunately, the city was adamant in following in the footsteps of Alachua County and decided to include source of income into the ordinance, even with their understanding of the additional costs, burdens, and bureaucracy that will be placed upon the housing providers.
Victims of Domestic Violence
The city also added victims of domestic violence, victims of dating violence, or victims of stalking to the list of protected classes in the fair housing section of the city’s code. This means that a housing provider cannot deny someone housing, among other things laid out in the ordinance, because they are a victim of domestic violence, victim of dating violence, or victim of stalking. We support the need to preserve housing for these victims, but we also realize the ordinance needs to balance the victims’ needs with practical business and legal limitations of housing providers. In an effort to secure housing for the vulnerable, the vague language included in the ordinance opened housing providers to many legal liabilities. In light of this, NCFAA communicated these concerns with the city over the past couple of months. The city understood our concerns and is continuing to work with NCFAA for a solution. Unfortunately, this provision was only added last minute and did not give us adequate time to work with the city.
As We Move Forward
It is important to understand that we are still working with the city on providing alternative solutions to the problems outlined in this article. In specific, we hope the city will provide guidelines for housing providers to reference when faced with a confusing situation not addressed in the ordinance. While the passing of this ordinance may not be ideal, we are still hopeful that the city will continue to work with us in addressing our concerns. If you have any further questions regarding this ordinance, please contact our local Government Affairs Director, William Jaycox, at William@faahq.org.