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Landlords cannot discriminate against tenants who pay with government assistance

Chris Nyman is responsible for the distribution of low income housing vouchers – also known as Section 8 – in St. Lawrence County. Photo credit: Monica Sandreczki

It’s illegal for landlords to turn down a tenant based on where they get their rent check, as long as it’s a legal source.

This became a new law in New York State in April. It aims to prevent homeowners from discriminating against people who pay with federal assistance, such as Section 8, Social Security disability, or veterans benefits.

Chris Nyman is responsible for the distribution of low income housing vouchers – also known as Section 8 – in St. Lawrence County. But a few years ago, while living in Massachusetts, Nyman was working in a good-sized apartment complex.

People would come looking for a two- or three-bedroom apartment to rent and frequently asked Nyman, “Do you accept Section 8 housing vouchers?” “

“And the answer is, yes we would. I always found it strange that I always got the question because, maybe at the time, I was just naive in thinking that,” Nyman said. “Why do they feel the need to ask this, but it just leads you to believe that a lot of people are saying ‘no’ to them. “

Across the country, landlords twice as often turn down Section 8 tenants if there are no discrimination laws on the books. People who pay with government help tend to be forced to live in poorer neighborhoods with poorer school districts, even though they could afford to live in wealthier neighborhoods.

Some owners say they don’t want to deal with the bureaucratic constraints attached to federal aid; others refuse to prevent poor people from living in their homes, according to published reports.

Earlier this year, New York joined a handful of other states in passing a law requiring homeowners to accept any form of legal income.

Here in the north of the country, Aran Voss-Hutchins, housing manager for the Section 8 Choice Voucher program for Essex County, says she has always found landlords extremely cooperative with federal help. .

“Personally, I haven’t had the experience of this being a huge problem in this area, but as we can tell from the law, it has certainly been a problem in other parts of the state.” , said Voss-Hutchins.

According to the governor’s office, this should make it easier for families to get out of shelters and substandard housing.

Nationally, there has been similar legislation; Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) has introduced the Fair Housing Improvement Act to Congress for the past two years, but it has gone nowhere.

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