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San Diego City Council Bans Section 8 Discrimination

San Diego's skyline is shown in this undated photo.

Photo by Milan Kovacevic

Above: San Diego's skyline is shown in this undated photo.

San Diego City Council members Tuesday approved a ban on discrimination against recipients of Section 8 housing vouchers. The measure passed on a 6-1 vote with two council members absent.

The ordinance allows landlords to use credit scores and other legal means to select tenants. But they cannot say "no" to an applicant based solely on whether they pay rent with a government subsidy.

Brandon Butler, a fair housing attorney at the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, said the discrimination ban was necessary.

"Allowing legal discrimination of Section 8 voucher holders in the private rental market actually exacerbates the homeless problem, because people are unable to use it," he said. "Or they take too long to find a place and are unable to utilize it, and it creates housing instability."

Tenants who use Section 8 vouchers say many landlords simply refuse to accept them. Some landlords consider it risky to accept a tenant who qualifies for Section 8. Some don't like the bureaucratic process that can delay their receipt of rent checks.

RELATED: Many Landlords Don’t Accept Rental Vouchers, Adding To Homeless Problem

Councilman Mark Kersey voted against the measure, which was sponsored by Councilwoman Georgette Gomez. A spokesperson for Kersey said he voted against it because the council refused to make an exception for "mom-and-pop" landlords who manage only one or two units.

Molly Kirkland, of the San Diego County Apartment Association, said landlords are concerned about the bureaucracy involved in the Section 8 program. But she said a proposed stakeholder meeting group is a good idea.

"We hear a lot of frustration from owners having to do with caseworker response time and getting questions answered," Kirkland said. "So we believe this open line of communication will be a huge help in addressing concerns for housing providers. And ultimately it will benefit residents and the housing authority as well."

The new ordinance will take effect in San Diego in 2019.

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