By Corinne Murdock |
Home sellers and landlords may no longer refuse potential homebuyers or tenants based on their source of income. Those who dare to do so may face up to $2,500 in daily fines. If the city attorney takes action on the violations, the court may issue a $50,000 fine for a first violation and $100,000 for subsequent violations.
The ordinance mainly offers assurance of guaranteed housing for those who rely on government assistance to acquire housing, such as Section 8 participants. Those eligible for Section 8 housing vouchers include those who are homeless or low income.
The ban even received support from Councilman Sal DiCiccio, often the odd vote out on controversial council issues. DiCiccio was the first to put the proposed ban on the agenda, according to Mayor Kate Gallego.
However, DiCiccio noted that he was voting in favor of the ban only in spirit, not physically, since he gave his word to realtors that he wouldn’t support banning income discrimination for homebuyers.
DiCiccio said income discrimination was a form of institutionalized racism.
“People know I don’t use the race card, I just do not, unless I believe it’s true,” said DiCiccio. “I looked at it more when it came to dealing with the Homeowners Associations who create deed restrictions. Deed restrictions are made to keep people out, not keep people in.”
DiCiccio said that he sees these kinds of gatekeeping even within his own community, which is a majority white, liberal community.
“I was shocked by it. I live in a mixed household myself, and I feel very strongly about it. Diversity does improve your community, it just does. It’s an important factor in our lives. You want as many people around you that have differing viewpoints, differing ideas, different looks,” said DiCiccio. “[Source of income discrimination] is a type of institutionalized racism that I have strong concerns over.”
According to DiCiccio, the Arizona Multihousing Association (AMA) said they would sue the city over this ban. DiCiccio said that the AMA should be ashamed for considering that response. The AMA represents the apartment industry in the state, with over 2,000 members.
“I would be embarrassed if I were them, to threaten to sue the city of Phoenix after what we’ve done for them over the years and taken the lead on,” said DiCiccio. “My plea to you: don’t embarrass yourself.”
Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus, AMA president and CEO, said in a statement to reporters that these kinds of policies would only make the housing crisis worse. LeVinus was critiquing a proposed bills from State Rep. Analisa Ortiz (D-LD24) that would ban income discrimination (HB2085), prohibit landlords from evicting for partial rent payments (HB2083), and allow rent caps (HB2086).
“[These policies are] curtailing the rights of property owners, making it more difficult for companies and mom-and-pop owners to stay in business and to provide homes for individuals and families,” said LeVinus.
Instead, LeVinus proposed reducing bureaucratic rules to improve homebuilding speeds.
“We need to slash away layers of bureaucracy and fight the rampant NIMBYism that makes building new homes such a slow, torturous process,” said LeVinus. “Doing so would address the housing crisis, not make it worse, and help ensure the Arizona economy continues on a steady upward trajectory.”
DiCiccio further claimed that institutions exist which actively discriminate against people attempting to get housing based on the color of their skin.
“A lot of individuals that are poor or people of color in particular are locked out of certain areas. They just are. Either it’s an affordability issue, or you’ve got this institutionalized type of programming in place that does not allow them in there,” said DiCiccio. “I think that’s just sick, personally. I think people should have the ability, freedom to be able to go into those communities that they want to move into. That’s how God made us, they gave us the free ability to move.”
Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari said that over 15,000 residents were on a waitlist for affordable housing assistance.
“We need to do everything in our power to ensure that our residents have access to adequate housing and that are actually able to utilize the programs that are intended to help them, like Section 8, disability, and others,” said Ansari.
Ansari criticized the state legislature for supporting income source discrimination, mainly referring to the Republican legislators leading an effort to prevent hotels and motels from being required to accept housing vouchers from the homeless. The vice mayor said that the legislators should be spending their time increasing funds for affordable housing projects.
“It’s time for the legislature to do its job so Phoenix can do its job to ensure housing affordability,” said Ansari.
Councilwoman Betty Guadardo said she empathized with the activists present at Wednesday’s council meeting. The councilwoman equated modern income discrimination with the discrimination that people faced during the Civil Rights Era, when homebuyers were discriminated against based on the color of their skin. A large group of activists showed up to speak in favor of the income discrimination ban.
“Discrimination has no place in the city of Phoenix,” said Guadardo.
Guadardo confirmed that the city of Phoenix was following the example of the city of Tucson, which banned landlords from discriminating against potential tenants’ source of income last September.
Ordinances have a 30-day wait period; however, the council is awaiting an opinion letter on the subject from Attorney General Kris Mayes. Should the opinion letter be unclear or unfavorable, then the city would have to reconcile any legal issues before enacting the ordinance. Councilwoman Laura Pastor expressed concern that the legal obstacles would leave the city without the capacity to enforce the ordinance.
“I have been briefed that there is a possibility that we don’t have the capacity to enforce it,” said Pastor.
City Manager Jeff Barton speculated that there may not be enough city staff to enforce the ordinance. However, Barton couldn’t say for sure.
Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.