Reynoldsburg City Council: Fair-housing law under consideration

Kelley Youman
ThisWeek
Reynoldsburg City Hall

Reynoldsburg City Council is considering a law aimed at fair housing.  

During a work session Nov. 23, council discussed an ordinance that would prevent discrimination based on the source of income used to pay rent. As proposed, the ordinance would amend an anti-discrimination law passed by council earlier this year to include "source of income" as a protected status under unlawful discriminatory housing practices.  

Council could see a first reading as soon as Monday, Dec. 14, but a vote is not expected until early next year.  

The proposal would protect individuals and families and “may include veterans, recipients of disability payments, households with rental assistance vouchers and anyone with other governmental or private sources of payment should be protected from discrimination when seeking rental housing solely on the basis of source of payment,” according to the draft legislation presented to council.   

Under the proposal, landlords would retain the right to use screening criteria, including rental history and credit scores, and still would be allowed to charge security deposits. 

Ward 1 councilwoman Shanette Strickland said she brought the legislation forward to “start the conversation.”   

“Just because we may not have heard about it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. We want to make sure we’re protecting those on a fixed income,” Strickland said. “A lot of families don’t have the means and for whatever reason they’re on assistance.”  

Several states and at least six other Ohio communities have enacted similar legislation, said Chris Shook, city attorney.   

In September, Bexley became the first in central Ohio to add “source of income” to its fair-housing law.  

Reynoldsburg has not received any complaints from tenants and is not aware of any problems with landlords, Shook said.   

“I think, instinctively, we would agree that you should not discriminate against an applicant if they receive veterans benefits or Social Security or child support. The intent would be to prohibit that discrimination but to do it in the right way,” he said.  

Several members of council suggested focusing on larger complexes and exempting small companies or landlords who own only a handful of units.  

“I’m not sure Bexley would be comparing apples to apples,” said Barth Cotner, at-large councilman. “There’s only six of these (types of laws) in the state, so we need to be seeking out something comparable to our community.”  

In an email to the council clerk, Keith Benner, a member of the city’s planning commission who owns several rental properties in Reynoldsburg, called the proposal a “solution in search of a problem.”  

“Maybe it’s an issue in some big cities around the country, but it’s not necessary in Reynoldsburg,” Benner said. 

City Council in June expanded the city’s anti-discrimination laws, adding sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and natural hairstyle as protected classes related to housing, employment and public-accommodation practices. 

It provides recourse for people who believe they have suffered discriminatory acts or practices not otherwise protected by state or federal law. Written complaints would have to be filed with the city and sworn to under oath, within 180 days of the incident.  

The legislation included exemptions for those seeking employment at a religious corporation, association, educational institution or society and allows a religious institution to employ only those people of the same religion. It also includes definitions of commercial and noncommercial activity, to help provide clarity for religious institutions. 

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