Bexley considers ordinance offering protection related to housing

CHRIS BOURNEA
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ThisWeek group

Bexley City Council is considering an ordinance that would offer protection from discrimination for individuals who receive housing assistance.

If approved, Ordinance 28-20 would “expand to all citizens rights to equal housing opportunities for themselves and their families regardless of the source of income being used to pay for such accommodations,” according to the current draft of the legislation council President Lori Ann Feibel introduced Aug. 11.

The legislation is not designed to promote the construction of new affordable housing units in Bexley but to offer protection to individuals who receive financial assistance to pay for housing, Feibel said.

“This ordinance does not help with new or even rehabbed housing, but it does protect individuals who receive housing assistance from being discriminated upon based on their source of income,” she said.

During the ordinance’s first reading Aug. 11, Bexley residents Heidi Kleit and Amy Klaben said they have been working with Mayor Ben Kessler and city officials to draft such legislation since the end of 2019.

Kleit is the former treasurer of the Bexley Community Improvement Corp., the city’s nonprofit development entity, and a researcher with Ohio State University.

Klaben is chief executive officer of Move to Prosper, a Columbus-based nonprofit organization that assists individuals with finding affordable rental housing in central Ohio, according to movetoprosper.org.

Kleit said the ordinance, if approved, would prevent “source-of-income discrimination” in Bexley for individuals who receive rental assistance, such as housing vouchers provided by the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority.

“Source-of-income discrimination is when a landlord refuses to rent to a prospective tenant because of that tenant’s source of income. That could be from a housing voucher, it could be from (Supplemental Security Income federal benefits), it could be from alimony, any source of income,” Kleit said. “This is currently legal and it happens pretty frequently in Ohio.”

Klaben said 17 states and at least six Ohio cities have approved legislation similar to Ordinance 28-20. She said objections to such legislation in other communities include that it could drive up the cost of rental housing to prices that exceed housing vouchers. However, studies have found that such legislation as Ordinance 28-20 tends to increase diversity in communities by making rental housing available to a wider pool of tenants, she said.

“This is how we create affordable housing in communities that don’t have space for new housing,” Klaben said. “It’s a way to create a diverse and inclusive community. Landlords are the key to an individual with a housing voucher’s opportunity to live in a wonderful community such as Bexley.”

Kessler said if council approves Ordinance 28-20, landlords still would have the right to screen tenants based on standard criteria other than rental assistance vouchers.

“What the legislation is designed to say is anybody who wants to rent the property in Bexley ... when it comes to the income that they’re using to pay for it, a voucher is a valid source of income and should be accepted,” he said. “We want Bexley to be a community that is welcoming to people who use vouchers.”

The third and final reading of the ordinance and a council vote tentatively are set for Sept. 8. For more information, go to bexley.org.

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