Worthy Point of View: Worthington building diversity through source-of-income legislation

Ethan Barnhardt
Guest columnist

Our shared experience over the past year and a half has shown us all the impact of how being welcoming and supporting of others helps to create a stronger and more resilient community.

Time and again, the people of Worthington have come together to show that they care deeply about each other and they value people from different backgrounds and lived experiences.

Ethan Barnhardt is management assistant for Worthington.

Worthington leaders have taken a series of steps in recent years to build a city that promotes tolerance, respect and love for one another, with the understanding that diversity strengthens the social fabric of the community.

In 2019, a nondiscrimination ordinance was approved by Worthington City Council after being recommended by the Community Relations Commission, ensuring that people are not treated differently because of a protected characteristic.

Additionally, the city recently embarked upon an ambitious 18-month visioning process that listened closely to the community’s desired hopes and dreams for the future.

The resulting vision statements showed that Worthington residents are passionate about advocating for positive change, specifically making sure that this is a diverse and equitable community that is welcoming of all people. Also expressed was a desire to overcome the biases and injustices that have created barriers to full inclusion within our community.

To build on these efforts, City Council has asked the CRC once again to research and explore legislation that would amend the nondiscrimination ordinance to include housing discrimination based on source of income. This change aims to remove housing barriers, enabling more individuals and families to have the ability to live in Worthington and enjoy access to the assets and opportunities that we all cherish so deeply.

Currently in Worthington, renters can be denied the access and opportunity to rent based upon their source of income, such as veteran’s benefits, Social Security income, unemployment payments or housing vouchers.

This is important because Worthington and the greater central Ohio region are facing a highly competitive real-estate market. When combined with a persistently high poverty rate, many vulnerable groups, such as people of color, women and persons with disabilities, who may rely on these different sources of income, struggle to find housing in high-opportunity and resource-rich communities, such as Worthington.

Worthington is considering joining the communities of Bexley, Columbus, Reynoldsburg and Westerville in central Ohio, along with the over 100 other states and local municipalities nationwide, to approve legislation prohibiting source-of-income discrimination.

Throughout the month of June, we will be reviewing the efforts of other communities, along with conducting community education sessions and surveying landlords in order to learn more about what source-of-income discrimination looks like in Worthington and how best to address it.

In July, the CRC intends to present recommendations on the draft legislation language for City Council to hear and potentially adopt.

We invite you to engage in this process and learn more about how to participate in the community education sessions by visiting worthington.org/SOI.

Ethan Barnhardt is a management assistant for Worthington.