Renton City Council approved an ordinance banning discrimination against renters who participate in the federal Section 8 program.
Renton City Council approved an emergency ordinance Monday prohibiting discrimination by landlords against renters who participate in the federal Housing Choice Voucher program.
The ordinance makes it illegal for property owners to refuse to rent to a person solely because they rely on federal assistance from the voucher program, otherwise known as Section 8, to help pay their rent. The program provides financial assistance for qualifying low-income families and other renters.
The ordinance also makes it illegal for landlords to refuse to allow required health and safety inspections by the public housing authority. Under the ordinance, they must now provide written notice explaining why the unit is ineligible. Violators could face up to $5,000 in fines and a 364-day jail sentence.
“The housing market throughout the region has shifted and caused hardships for families of all income levels,” said Renton Mayor Denis Law. “Cost of homes and rental rates are increasing throughout the region. We need to find long-term solutions for affordable housing.”
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Renton joins several other municipalities in the region that have already passed similar protections for Section 8 renters, including Seattle. The Renton ordinance will take effect immediately and will expire on Aug. 1, 2017.
Asked about the short life of the ordinance, city spokeswoman Preeti Shridhar called it an “emergency” stopgap that will help protect low-income renters while the city considers a more long-term solution.
The move comes after a group of renters pleaded with the City Council to intervene in a dispute with landlords at three local apartment complexes.
The dispute began last summer, when the companies that operate the Grammercy Apartments and nearby Renton Woods apartment complexes began sending notices to Section 8 tenants that their leases would not be renewed.
Forty-two households at the Grammercy Apartments were given notices, while at Renton Woods, 23 Section 8 voucher-holders received notice.
Tenants at the complexes complained to city officials that the notices provided them just 60 days to move out. But with rents and competition for apartments increasing across the region, they argued, 60 days is an inadequate amount of time.
Late week, Fairfield Residential, the company that operates the Grammercy Apartments, rescinded the notices to the affected tenants indefinitely.
Affected Renton Woods tenants received a similar reprieve, when their representatives reached an agreement with the property-management company that operates the complex to extend their move-out date to June 30, 2017, said Northwest Justice Project Attorney Scott Crain.
“We are working on relocation assistance for tenants who agree to vacate by then,” he said.