Council to Vote on Housing for All Legislative Package
Council will Consider Source of Income Discrimination, Renter’s Choice, and Rental Receipt Ordinances to Advance Affordable Housing in Columbus
[COLUMBUS, OH] In Columbus, the affordable housing crisis is at a tipping point. The economic impact of the pandemic has destabilized and displaced families throughout the country. Committed to ensuring every resident in Columbus has the opportunity to call someplace home, Councilmember Shayla Favor will present the Housing for All legislative package to provide options and protections for tenants seeking affordable housing in the City of Columbus.
“Columbus is in the midst of a major crisis, and we have the opportunity to affect change through legislation,” said Councilmember Favor. “If we don’t act now, we will find an even greater number of our most vulnerable residents without safe, sanitary and affordable housing.”
During the March 8 regular meeting, Council will vote on ordinances 0494-2021 dealing with Source of Income, 0495-2021 addressing Renter’s Choice Security Deposit and 0496-2021, which mandates Rental Receipts.
The Columbus ordinance 0494-2021 protects renters from discrimination based on income, including social security, child support, spousal support, housing choice vouchers and other lawful means of payment. The new law will allow landlords to maintain their ability to screen all applicants equitably and deny housing to those who do not meet other eligibility criteria. The Source of Income protection provides opportunities, particularly for households utilizing the Housing Choice Voucher program.
“The Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) currently funds over 12,500 vouchers throughout Columbus and Franklin County," said CMHA Chief Operating Officer Scott Scharlach. "We provide rental subsidies to over 3,000 unique landlords in the private market each month. We support this legislation and believe it will expand and promote fair housing in our community. The source of someone’s income should not dictate where they can and can’t live. By opening additional housing options, we are providing an opportunity for the residents of Columbus to choose where they live."
The traditional security deposit can be a major barrier for residents seeking new housing. Ordinance 0495-2021, Renter’s Choice legislation, brings down the upfront cost of renting. Landlords and operators will be required to provide tenants with written notice of acceptable security deposit options. These include paying the full traditional security deposit upfront or installments over three or six months. The legislation does not prohibit landlords and tenants from agreeing to alternative security deposit means, including security deposit insurance.
A rent receipt is an acknowledgment of payment made by a tenant. Receipts are especially important when a tenant makes payment in cash. Many low-income tenants are unbanked and without electronic payment methods. Ordinance 0496-2021 confirms timely rent payments through mandating receipts. It provides additional protection for tenants who may find themselves in eviction court or in any scenario in which proof of rent payment is required.
“This legislative package is not designed to solve all of our City’s housing challenges,” Favor continued. “However, these policies are important tools to help advance our goals of strengthening neighborhoods by stabilizing homes.”
The Columbus Urban League (CUL), the City of Columbus' Fair Housing contractor, will investigate complaints regarding the violation of the new policies.
“Over the past year, The Columbus Urban League was able to support over 532 families from disparate housing practices through educational workshops, seminars, and landlord/tenant mediations," said CUL Vice President Melinda Carter. "During this pandemic, we were able to provide over $155,000 in much-needed housing stabilization assistance and financial literacy training. We look forward to our continued partnership with the City of Columbus to support the community we serve,”
Following passage of the legislation, Council will engage a provider to assist with a community education effort for tenants and landlords on their rights and responsibilities. The policy changes will go into effect on July 1, 2021.