Supervisors Approve Ordinance Against Housing Discrimination

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas with tenants at 127th Street Apartments and El Segundo Boulevard Apartments. Photo by Martin Zamora / Board of Supervisors

The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance that would ban landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants who receive government-issued rental assistance, such as Section 8 vouchers.

Though the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968, implementation of its guarantees has fallen short. A 2018 Housing and Urban Development survey found that prospective tenants with Section 8 vouchers have a 76 percent denial rate when applying for housing in Los Angeles.

“Addressing pervasive housing discrimination is a critical part of our comprehensive strategy to stabilize and create more opportunity in our housing marketplace,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, co-author of the motion that called for the ordinance. “The ordinance will not force landlords to rent to a voucher-holder, but simply prevent ruling them out as a tenant based solely on their source of income.”

“Implementation of the nation’s Fair Housing Act is 50 years overdue,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, lead author of the motion. “With today’s action, LA County is saying we will wait no longer. Discrimination in housing is exacerbating our housing and homelessness crisis by allowing landlords to discriminate and deny leases to families who want and can pay for housing.”

Los Angeles County Development Authority (LACDA) Executive Director Monique King-Viehland said in a letter to the Board, “In a County with less than a 3% vacancy rate and approximately 38,000 individuals/families on the County’s waiting list for Section 8 housing, this form of discrimination further limits the rental inventory for rental subsidy assisted families and is thereby effectively eliminating housing choice options.”

According to the California Housing Partnership Corporation, the County has a shortage of about 517,000 affordable housing units.

The Board approved the ordinance after adopting a motion by Supervisors Kuehl and Ridley-Thomas in January that called for “Creating Solutions to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing in Los Angeles County.” The motion directed County Counsel, in consultation with LACDA, to prepare an ordinance that would prevent landlord discrimination against housing applicants with government-provided rental assistance including, but not limited to, Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, other federally-funded rental assistance programs, the Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool and rapid re-housing rental assistance.

The ordinance complements $5 million committed by the Board to fund a database for tracking evictions, a displacement study, incentives for landlords to take Section 8 tenants, and educational programs on housing rights.

The ordinance had been recommended by the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority’s Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness. It is also among the policies that Board is seeking at the State level, along with preventing price gouging and tenant evictions without just cause.