Section 8’s New Era

Section 8 protection:  Oregon enters a new era in housing opportunity
By Guest Blogger:  Elizabeth Gray, FHCO Intake Specialist, Fair Housing Council of Oregon

It’s been several months since Oregon fair housing law1 was amended to protect housing consumers from discrimination based on Section 8 voucher or other rental assistance income (House Bill 2639 and statute at ORS 659A.421).

Source of income has long been protected in Oregon.  However, when the state legislation was passed, Section 8 vouchers were specifically lobbied out as an exception.  With this exception removed, effective July 1st, 1014, all legally obtained sources of income are protected across the state.

In practical terms, this means that a landlord cannot refuse to rent to an applicant, or treat an applicant or tenant differently, because the applicant is using a Section 8 voucher or other form of rental housing assistance.  Nor can landlords advertise “no Section 8” or “No HUD”.

In the words of Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland), the expanded protection “‘creates that door of opportunity’ for voucher-holders to apply for housing close to work, kids’ schools and in thriving neighborhoods”. (Oregonian, July 8th, 2013)

Our office has kept very busy over the past many months providing technical assistance to housing providers regarding the law’s implementation as well as advocating for consumers who have encountered resistance to their use of Section 8 vouchers and other rental subsidies.

As a snapshot, we have:

  • Sent informational letters to landlords that have posted “No Section 8” ads on Craigslist
  • Advocated for tenants having issues leasing up with a new landlord, or current landlords that do not want to accept the voucher when a current tenant receives one
  • Tested properties brought to our attention by complainants

How to Calculate 2-3x The Rent

Over these past months, one question that’s been raised by both landlords and tenants is how to calculate whether or not a prospective renter qualifies for the rental based on their income. The position that our office is taking is that the landlord should only consider the amount that the tenant actually pays, not the full advertised rent.

For example, consider if a stated rent amount is 1200 and the landlord requires a renter to have 3 times the rent in income. A non-Section 8 tenant could be required to show income of 3600 dollars per month, but if a Section 8 (or other subsidy) tenant would pay 300 dollars in rent and the local housing authority would pay 900, then the tenant should only be required to show income of 900 dollars per month.

You can find a more detailed discussion of this issue (and many others) in Question 7 of the Frequently Asked Questions referenced below, a wonderful resource for both housing providers and consumers that was compiled by attorney and FHCO board member John van Landingham of the Lane County Law and Advocacy Center.  The document is comprehensive and evolving, and created in partnership with landlord trade groups, other legal aid offices and colleagues, as well as representatives from housing authorities around the state.  View the full PDF at www.FHCO.org/pdfs/Section%208%20Source%20of%20Income%20FAQ%20clean%20copy%2010262014.pdf

This article brought to you by the Fair Housing Council; a civil rights organization.  All rights reserved © 2015. Write jbecker@FHCO.org to reprint articles or inquire about ongoing content for your own publication.

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Qs about this article?  ‘Interested in articles for your company or trade association?  Contact Jo Becker at jbecker@FHCO.org or 800/424-3247 Ext. 150

Want to schedule an in-office fair housing training program or speaker for corporate or association functions?  Visit www.FHCO.org/learning-resources/trainings to learn about the trainings we offer for companies and groups.

[1] Federally protected classes under the Fair Housing Act include:  race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (children), and disability.  Oregon law also protects marital status, source of income, sexual orientation, and domestic violence survivors.  Additional protected classes have been added in particular geographic areas; visit FHCO.org/mission.htm and read the section entitled “View Local Protected Classes” for more information.