By Corinne Murdock |
The city of Phoenix will vote on whether to ban income discrimination for housing during the next upcoming council meeting. The ban would likely have the most significant impact for the homeless and low-income who receive housing vouchers.
According to the proposed ordinance, those who discriminate based on a homebuyer or renter’s source of income would face civil penalties of up to $2,500, as well as daily penalties of up to $2,500.
In a letter to City Manager Jeff Barton, several members of the council claimed that income discrimination violated a civil right to fair housing. Federal law only prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, familial status, and disability.
“Too often, the practice of considering a source of income is used to discriminate against renters who use housing vouchers, Social Security disability, foster family credits, or benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs,” stated the letter.
Councilmembers Laura Pastor, Betty Guadardo, and Carlos Garcia signed off on the letter, disclosing that Mayor Kate Gallego and four other members of the council support this proposed ordinance.
19 states and Washington, D.C. have banned income discrimination for housing.
The vote will come about a week after the House passed a bill banning local governments from requiring hotels and motels to accept housing vouchers from the homeless passed the House.
HB2379 by State Rep. Matt Gress (R-LD04) specifically prevents cities, towns, and counties from requiring hotels and motels to participate in housing programs for the homeless, thereby allowing them to refuse housing voucher payments for an unoccupied guest room. Voucher funds come from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The House passed Gress’ bill along party lines, with all Republicans voting for it and all Democrats against it.
House Minority Leader Andrés Cano (D-LD20) claimed that the bill wasn’t compassionate. He alluded that a housing-first approach was the right solution for the homeless.
“What message is the state of Arizona sending if we have vacant hotel rooms and people living on the street?” said Cano. “It is the message that we can’t have people in our state housed. I’m worried that’s what this bill does. Democrats stand ready, we are absolutely ready, to address their long-term needs.”
Gress rebutted that his bill was common sense. He cited the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association recommendation against requiring hotels and motels to accept housing vouchers, due to the fact that staff weren’t equipped to handle the needs of the homeless.
“This legislation is trying to prevent what would amount to a takings of private property, to force unequipped and untrained hotel workers to help address the situation with homelessness. Many of these individuals struggle with mental health and addiction issues,” said Gress. “We’ve seen too many bad ideas being exported from California, and this is another one we’re trying to prevent.”