Kirkland considers banning Section 8 rent descrimination
The city of Kirkland is considering an anti-discrimination ordinance that would prohibit a landlord from refusing to rent to a tenant solely because of the applicant’s use of Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.
If approved, Kirkland would join Bellevue, Redmond, Seattle, unincorporated King County and 34 other local jurisdictions in enacting this legislation.
According to Kirkland Planning Supervisor Dawn Nelson, the city hasn’t received any formal complaints from tenants, but city officials want things to stay that way. The ordinance supports Kirkland City Council’s goal of preserving housing opportunities for people of all needs.
Before Redmond had such a law on the books, tenants at a complex in Redmond received a notice from their landlord that Section 8 plans were no longer going to be accepted. Because of this change, renters were left scrambling to look for a home. The Redmond City Council enacted the legislation in response to the incident.
Kirkland wants a law in place before it is needed, Nelson said.
The proposed ordinance would require landlords to use the same screening process for Section 8 renters as they do for all other prospective tenants. Landlords can still use their regular screening process, including credit and rental history checks.
The Section 8 Housing Voucher Program helps low-income families, the elderly and the disabled to afford and attain housing in the private market. The program is meant to ensure that everyone has an equal chance at affordable housing.
This program is funded by the federal government and is overseen by local housing authorities. Within the program, participants pay a percentage of the rent and utility costs, and the King County Housing Authority (KCHA) pays the difference through a voucher system.
Nelson said this method of payment is one reason some landlords are apprehensive about the ordinance.
“There’s a risk,” Nelson said. “Landlords could still potentially have people who can’t pay their part of the rent.”
Also, she said, KCHA requires that an inspection of the space before a family using Section 8 moves in.
This process demands more paperwork and more time than a typical tenant.
KCHA sets rent limits for program participants, and the program only gives vouchers for costs up to that limit. Landlords are not required to lower rent prices to make units more available to Section 8 participants.
Right now, Nelson is soliciting public feedback and will present her findings to the city council on March 19.
From there, the council could decide to adopt it, amend it, or ask for more research, she said.
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