SB 1053, Mark Leno

Prevent Discrimination in Housing

What is SB 1053, and why do we need it? SB 1053 provides all Californians with a full and fair opportunity to seek housing by ensuring that landlords cannot deny applicants simply because they receive federal rental subsidies (Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers).  It expands the Fair Employment and Housing Act to protect would-be tenants with Section 8 vouchers from discrimination by landlords. California is in the midst of a historical rental housing crisis, with high rents squeezing working-class renters, particularly the poor and those on fixed incomes.  California's poorest 25% spend an average of 67% of their income on rent, limiting their food, healthcare, transportation to work and other necessities. Over 300,000 low-income California families, most of whom contain children, seniors, or people with disabilities, get Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8) to help pay their housing costs, so their out-of-pocket rental costs are only 30% of their income.  Section 8 vouchers are paid by Federal HUD and administered locally. Much more affordable rental housing must be built, and many more people should be eligible for Section 8 vouchers,  but for those who get them, Section 8 vouchers has been a successful in providing better housing for low-income families, particularly Blacks, Latins, and veterans.  Yet many landlords refuse to accept tenants using Section 8 vouchers to supplement their rental payments.  Some landlords have even called law enforcement to harass and drive out their Section 8 tenants.  Last June, in Santa Clara County, only 14% of families given vouchers were able to use them.  This landlord behavior is contributing to re-segregation of communities by race. Housing discrimination based on source-of-income is illegal under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, but the law has been interpreted to exclude vouchers.  SB 1053 would explicitly include Section 8 vouchers as a protected source-of-income.  Ten other states have adapted similar provisions. SB 1053 is awaiting assignment to a policy committee, no action until March 18.