The Washington Post Wonkblog's Emily Badger takes a close look at one of the most persistent forms of housing discrimination in the United States: "Souce of Income" laws. You've probably seen them in a Craigslist ad for the apartment that you want to go see as "No Section 8." It's against the law everywhere for landlords to discriminate against many forms of discrimination like race, religion, disability, or family status. (Although many states and localities still allow landlords to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identification.) What is not against the law in many places is discriminating against where the prospective tenants get their money, and specifically, landlords use this loophole to discriminate indirectly against the poor and minorities by choosing to deny people who get housing vouchers from the government. Some big cities like San Francisco and Washington, D.C., do outlaw this practice, although landlords often disregard the local laws and do it anyway.
Badger accurately points out that allowing this practice to continue prevents many other attempts to help the poor to be effective. Vouchers are often seen as the market solution favored by conservatives who are against the more forceful policy of actively placing poorer families in better neighborhoods. But vouchers are no good if you allow landlords to reject people on the basis of using them. As Badger writes: " 'Source of income' laws sound like a relatively narrow idea. But without them, many other proposals for how to leverage housing to alleviate poverty don’t work as well. We can counsel families on how to find the kinds of neighborhoods where their children would thrive, but that plan frays if there are few properties there that will accept them. We can offer families subsidies that would cover more expensive housing near good schools, but that doesn't matter if landlords there won't take the money."
Read Emily Badger's full story at The Washington Post.