The Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance staff held a virtual webinar Wednesday to inform residents of source of Income and Section 8.
Branden Butler, Assistant Deputy Director of Education and Outreach with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, gave a general overview of source of income.
“Senate Bill 239 amended our existing fair employment and housing act to now say that source of income means that landlords cannot decline a tenant based only on the household receiving rental assistance,” said Butler. “What happened is the law now says rental assistance is a protected source of income, it’s broad it’s not just section 8 vouchers.”
Butler gave a brief overview of what section 8 is and how it’s changed the way house providers view it.
“Before this pandemic, it was and still remains very difficult for a section 8 tenant to use their voucher. Folks were having a difficult time finding housing because the market was hot, prices go up, and when the market’s hot the usual experience is that section 8 tenants have a very difficult time,” said Butler. “ Believe it or not, with the housing prices, I’ve actually heard a bit otherwise now where housing providers are more excited to rent to a section 8 tenant because they know guaranteed income, and they’ll be paid rent.”
Butler also talks about what laws have changed regarding section 8 and how this pandemic has had a major impact on those changes.
“It’s now against the law in California to say I will not rent to someone because they receive rental assistance, I will treat them differently because they receive rental assistance, I will have different terms and conditions,” said Butler. “That is all unlawful now including its a drismcontroy statement to say no to section 8, so now section 8 and rental assistance is now protected since january 1, 2020.”
According to Butler regarding this new law source of income protection for voucher holders, all housing providers must comply. This includes private landlords, property management companies, homeowners’, corporations, and others who rent residential property in California.
With the new section 8 law being changed, the unlawful acts that were not prohibited before are now prohibited.
“You cannot state a preference for this type of income similar as you can’t say no unemployment,” said Butler. “You cannot refuse an application from a prospective tenant, charge a higher deposit or rent, or treat them differently in any other way because of section8 voucher.”
Butler did a sample on some counties, including Kern County, of 2020 source of income discriminatory advertisements.
“We just looked at each county for a couple of days, when we looked as a sample we found 416 discmriantoy statements, we opened up 176 cases and closed 171 cases where we actually reached out and sent compliance letters to those landlords informing them that their statement was unlawful asking them to take it down and really change their housing practice,” said Butler.
Butler informed the people that source of income loss now protects people of discirmnaition.
“You look at the fact that we have a past of racial discrimination where many of the folks who are on section 8 are already segregated in the area thats of the highest proverty and disproprotionly to people of color, so if you have laws that say we will never rent to section 8 tennates it’s disproprotinaly impacting people of color,” said Butler.
“In 2019 as has been in every year that I looked back in the last 10 years, disability is the number one leve of disrcimiantion complaint that we receive,” said Butler.
Wednesday’s meeting, source of Income and section 8, is part of GBLA’s Fair Housing Law Project and celebrates National Fair Housing Month. The local organization is hosting a series of virtual conferences to provide more information to renters who have been affected by COVID-19 and need financial assistance.
Those interested in attending the last webinar can register by heading to GBLAFairHousing.org or by calling (661)501-0372. The last event is:
April 28 from 10-11 a.m.: Tenants’ Rights for Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence