Why More SOI Laws Are Needed

Blog post from the Poverty & Race Research Action Council

In 1974, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) initiated the Section 8 housing program, later renamed the Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs) Program. HCVs theoretically allow holders to move anywhere they find suitable. This choice is fundamental to their design, which is meant to expand their options beyond the historic concentration of subsidized housing and enable them to seek out good jobs, schools, and healthy homes. In reality, however, the lack of affordable housing, tight rental markets, lack of information, and landlord bias often curtails the ability of HCV holders to exercise housing choice.

In efforts to further the policies of expanded choice, desegregation, and access to opportunity set forth by the Fair Housing Act and the voucher program, numerous communities are seeking to address landlord bias with Source of Income (SOI) protection laws or ordinances. Source of Income (SOI) discrimination occurs when a landlord refuses to rent to a potential tenant based on having a voucher. In many areas, SOI discrimination has a disproportionately severe effect on groups already likely to face discrimination on the basis of characteristics protected by the Fair Housing Act, such as race and disability. Because of this, patterns of SOI discrimination can also reinforce patterns of residential segregation.

Source of Income (SOI) laws can protect the over 2 million HCV holder households and other people on assisted incomes from discrimination on that basis.Thousands of voucher-holders, often after having waited years on the voucher waiting list, have had their vouchers expire because the household did not, within specifies time limits, find housing where they could use the voucher.[1] SOI laws can have a real effect in helping such families. The study The Impact of Source of Income Laws on Voucher Utilization and Locational Outcomes, stated, “Neighborhoods with SOI laws in place show improved utilization rates and better locational outcomes for voucher recipients.”[2]

[1] http://www.prrac.org/full_text.php?item_id=9757&newsletter_id=85

[2] https://www.huduser.gov/publications/pdf/freeman_impactlaws_assistedhousingrcr06.pdf