Bexley council studying issue before vote on housing-opportunities ordinance

CHRIS BOURNEA
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An ordinance designed to prevent landlords in Bexley from rejecting prospective tenants with federal housing vouchers for rent subsidies remains a topic of discussion as Bexley City Council plans to meet Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Ordinance 28-20 had been scheduled for a third reading and vote Sept. 8, but council President Lori Ann Feibel said she moved to table the legislation and give council more time for researching the issue.

The purpose of Ordinance 28-20, which Feibel introduced at council's Aug. 11 meeting, aims to "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 its draft.

Feibel said she plans to amend the ordinance so it would not go into effect until January, giving the city more time to educate local landlords and tenants about how the legislation would be implemented.

"We will need to work with our landlords," Feibel said. "We will need to educate them. We will need to partner with Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority to make efforts to support (landlords)."

Council member Richard Sharp said he had plans to introduce alternative legislation to Ordinance 28-20 at the Sept. 22 meeting, but he did not offer details.

Sharp said he plans to introduce "an alternative solution that I feel will provide immediate results and maybe be a little more measurable to the effectiveness of such an ordinance or support of housing voucher usage without potentially some of the side effects."

Feibel said she was concerned that one possible side effect of Ordinance 28-20 could be landlords raising rents to avoid prospective tenants with housing vouchers.

She said her research thus far indicates that has not happened in other Ohio municipalities that have similar legislation: Linndale, South Euclid, University Heights, Warrensville Heights and Wickliffe.

"All of the data suggests that is not what happens and indeed what does happen is the market controls the rent," Feibel said.

Feibel said she has contacted all six of the Ohio municipalities that have similar legislation and spoken with the mayors of South Euclid and University Heights about whether the legislation resulted in landlords raising rents.

"I've had fairly lengthy conversations about this and that is not something that they have found to be the case in their cities, either," Feibel said.

Of the four residents who spoke at the Sept. 8 council meeting, which again was held via Zoom because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, all were in favor of Ordinance 28-20.

"Discrimination within housing -- that has been a problem that has plagued our society since inception. Housing vouchers are an area where we see that very actively," Vernon Road resident Spencer Cahoon said. "Helping to take that out of the calculus for whether a family or a single person is appropriate for a rental unit helps make that more accessible to people, when otherwise this often is used as a proxy for race. I think this is a great way of reducing the systemic racism in the housing market of Bexley."

"My hope is that anyone who appreciates the many things that Bexley has to offer and wants to live in Bexley should be able to, regardless of their financial situation," North Cassady Avenue resident Julie Watson said. "My hope is that you will minimize one less barrier that keeps people out of our community and pass this ordinance."

For information about Ordinance 28-20, go to bexley.org.

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