CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (July 14, 2022) – Charlotte City Council voted Monday to adopt a new city policy that protects potential tenants of City of Charlotte-supported developments from being disqualified from renting a unit because they participate in a housing assistance program.
The policy stems from the city’s ongoing work to study and address discrimination based on sources of income, study and address discrimination based on sources of income, in particular a tenant’s use of choice vouchers for Section 8 housing and other housing subsidies. The city is prioritizing making safe and affordable housing more accessible to people with low to middle incomes, to improve their opportunities for upward mobility.
“Far too many of our neighbors who use vouchers are unable to find housing,” said Shawn Heath, director of the city’s housing and neighborhood services department. “With this new anti-discrimination policy, the city is working to change that.”
The policy does not prevent a landlord or property manager from determining, in a commercially reasonable and non-discriminatory manner, a housing seeker’s ability to afford to rent a property. Landlords can refuse to rent to a potential tenant, but not because of a legal source of income.
“We try to make the playing field as even as possible,” Heath said. “I don’t know if it can ever be completely equal, but if potential tenant A and potential tenant B knock on the door, and one of them has a voucher and the other doesn’t, we would like the housing provider to be able to be as close to indifference as possible.”
The city already applies this protection to affordable housing developments backed by voter-approved bonds through the city’s Housing Trust Fund. The new policy extends protections to other city-supported projects, including:
Affordable housing developments that receive city grants or incentives, such as the deed of city-owned land to a developer to build affordable housing.
Market-priced housing by a prime developer or third-party developer who is supported by the city through programs such as tax increase grants (reimbursement of property taxes given to projects that meet economic growth and development objectives). land use) or capital investments that improve infrastructure.
The new policy does not apply to rezoning requests; applying it to rezoning requests would require legislation from the North Carolina General Assembly. The policy also does not apply to developments that do not use City of Charlotte support. The city will encourage these developers to voluntarily accept tenants with all forms of rental assistance.
The policy was part of a set of recommendations from the community-led Ad Hoc Revenue Sources Advisory Committee, which was established in April 2021 and tasked with finding ways to increase acceptance of all forms of housing allowances. Committee members represent real estate, development, housing policy and faith-based organizations.
Residents who believe they have been denied access to housing based on a legal source of income may file a complaint by calling 311. Any investigation of non-compliance will be conducted by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations .
What are the legal sources of income?
Lawful sources of income include income from:
A lawful profession, occupation or employment.
Any government or private housing assistance, grant, loan or assistance program, including federal programs and other housing assistance programs. Any legal, documented gift, inheritance, pension, annuity, alimony, child support, or other consideration or benefit.
What are housing choice checks and how do they work?
The Federal Government’s Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8, helps very low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities afford decent, safe and healthy housing on the market. private. The program is the largest source of housing subsidies in the Charlotte area.
Participants can choose single-family homes, townhouses, or apartments that meet program requirements. Vouchers are not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects.
Housing Choice Vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies.
Inlivian is the Charlotte area public housing agency. INLIVIAN receives federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher program.
Housing assistance is paid to the landlord directly by INLIVIAN on behalf of the participating individual or family. The participant then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.
Why the interest in increasing the number of vouchers accepted by owners?
According to a study by INLIVIAN, from 2017 to 2019, 21% of vouchers granted to households expired before being used. Of the 79% of vouchers that were successfully redeemed, the average time it took someone to search for accommodation and redeem a voucher was 73 days.
Upward mobility, housing affordability and access to housing are issues the city continues to face. Although not a complete solution, this policy is a useful tool and a significant step in the right direction.
Will the policy help low-income people access market-priced housing?
The Housing Choice Voucher program supports people earning no more than 50% of the area’s median income (in Charlotte, $47,100 for a family of four), and HUD sets a maximum rental limit for residents using a Well. As such, market rate units are often not available to bondholders.
How will the city implement the policy and ensure developer and property manager compliance?
City Council has asked staff to review how the city will enforce the policy. A committee of city council will review the enforcement recommendations before the recommendations are discussed and voted on by the full city council.
Housing providers will be in violation of the new policy if the reason for an applicant’s refusal is because of the applicant’s legal source of income. To implement the new policy in the community, city staff:
Train developers who receive city support and their property managers on the policy.
Educate potential tenants on topics such as tenant-landlord relationships and fair housing.
Track acceptance rates for housing vouchers and subsidies through annual reports and process trends as needed.
Any investigation of non-compliance will be conducted by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations.