City Council: 'Source of income' approved as protected housing status In Reynoldsburg

Kelley Rodriguez
ThisWeek
Reynoldsburg City Hall

Reynoldsburg is the latest Ohio city to add “source of income” to its fair housing law.  

City Council on March 22 voted 6-1 to add source of income as a protected status under unlawful discriminatory housing practices. 

“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 legislation present to council. 

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

The approval followed months of discussions by council and presentations from fair-housing advocates, which say SOI laws support job growth and help maintain affordable housing.  

Several states and at least six other Ohio communities have enacted similar legislation, including Columbus and Bexley.  

Opponents said the law forces landlords to interact with government agencies like the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, which can delay the process and be difficult to navigate for landlords who only have a handful or properties. 

Housing subsidies are paid directly to the landlord directly by CMHA, with renters paying the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized. 

CMHA will issue about 13,500 vouchers this year for federally subsidized housing but more than double that currently are on the wait list, according to the organization’s website. 

At-large councilman Barth Cotner cast the lone vote against the measure. 

Fourth Ward councilwoman Meredith Lawson-Rowe said a job loss brought her family to Ohio and her family rents a home in Reynoldsburg.  

Lawson-Rowe said she has been both a homeowner and a landlord, renting a home she previously owned in Georgia.  

“It is by the grace of God that we have jobs and that we’re professional people, but life happens. In full disclosure, I’m a renter,” Lawson-Rowe said. “I know what it’s like to have to fill in that gap when you don’t have that second income that you’re used to having. I have not had (to use) rental assistance, but whose to say I may not have to one day.” 

Reynoldsburg in June expanded its 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 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. 

Rental registry 

also approved 

Council also unanimously approved the creation of a registry to track rental properties and landlords in the city, requiring property owners to register and pay a one-time fee of $25 for each dwelling unit.   

Multi-family buildings will be charged $25 per unit up to the first five units per structure and nothing for additional units in the same building.  

Property owners also are required to have a local “designated agent” the city could contact in case of violations.   

Although all rental-property owners will be required to register, officials said the registry likely will not be used to target minor violations like trash and overgrown grass, which are violations typically caused – and remedied – by the tenant.  

The Columbus Apartment Association opposed the registry, saying Ohio law already requires the owners of residential rental property to register a contact agent with the auditor of the county where the property is located.  

The fine for failing to register rental properties in Franklin County is $150.  

Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Gahanna, Marietta, Nelsonville, Oxford, Painesville, Sandusky and University Heights are among Ohio cities with some form of additional rental-registration requirement.  

The next council meeting is 6:30 p.m. April 12.

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