Reynoldsburg City Council considers adding 'source of income' to anti-discrimination law
Reynoldsburg could become the latest Ohio community to adopt a “source of income” law prohibiting housing discrimination based on how tenants pay their rent.
Council’s public safety, law and courts committee is considering a proposed ordinance that would amend an anti-discrimination law passed last year to include "source of income" as a protected status under unlawful discriminatory housing practices.
Draft legislation present to City Council says “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.”
The council committee has discussed the proposal at three work sessions this year.
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.
Central Ohio is the eighth most income-segregated place in the country, said Carlie Boos, executive director of the Affordable Housing Alliance of Central Ohio, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving housing affordability in Franklin County.
“That’s not the natural result of individual choice,” Boos said, but of restrictive covenants and laws “intended to divide.”
“Even today despite monumental shifts … they continue to define our housing. That type of discrimination has long consequences,” she said Jan. 25 during a council work session.
Dimitri Hatzifotinos, an attorney representing the Columbus Apartment Association, said closing the housing affordability gap should include increasing the number of rental assistance programs or “vouchers” available or giving landlords an “incentive to accept the vouchers.”
“When we talk about SOI, that legislation is … not going to create more affordable housing. We’re not going to take one voucher and make it three,” he said.
Ward 1 Councilwoman Shanette Strickland said she sponsored the legislation because “ZIP code matters.”
“We know that discrimination does happen,” she said. “It happens right here in our own backyard. In my private world, I get the calls about families needing to be protected based off their income.
“This ordinance is designed to protect anybody who wants to rent property in the city of respect … especially during this economic crisis,” Strickland said. “It makes people uncomfortable that we have to talk about the source of income because it matters. Yes, it means that we may have to do a couple more things as property owners.”
City Attorney Chris Shook said Reynoldsburg has not received any complaints from tenants and he is not aware of any problems with landlords.
Several states and at least six other Ohio communities have enacted similar legislation, Shook said.
In September, Bexley became the first city in central Ohio to add “source of income” to its fair-housing law.
Reynoldsburg expanded its anti-discrimination laws in June 2020, 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 must 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 people of the same religion. It also includes definitions of commercial and noncommercial activity to help provide clarity for religious institutions.