Seattle City Council Passes Strong Tenant Protection Legislation, Bans Discrimination Based on Income Source

Monday, August 8, 2016

Columbia Legal Services (CLS) applauds the Seattle City Council for unanimously passing tenant protection legislation today that expands fair housing protections to include additional subsidies and sources of income used to rent. It is already illegal in Seattle for landlords to discriminate against a prospective tenant whose primary source of income is a Section 8 voucher. This law aims to ensure that Seattle's fair housing ordinance includes protections for all sources of income used, such as child support, pensions, Social Security, unemployment, and other any governmental or non-profit subsidies. It also bans Preferred Employer Programs and requires landlords to accept applicants in chronological order, taking the first qualified applicant who meets the stated screening criteria. See fact sheet on the issue

CLS thanks bill sponsor Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold and the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) for their leadership in making these vital tenant protections possible.

“Expanding fair housing protections will help protect the most vulnerable residents in Seattle from discrimination when they’re trying to find a place to live,” said Ann LoGerfo, Directing Attorney of the Basic Human Needs Project at CLS. “In a city where affordable housing is already scarce, the practice of using Preferred Employer Programs can make finding a home even harder for women and racial and ethnic minorities. In order to support thriving communities, we shouldn’t be allowing unconscious bias define who lives in our communities.”

CLS Attorney Merf Ehman was a member of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda Committee which included the source of income discrimination proposal in their recommendations to the Council. Ehman and LoGerfo worked closely with Councilmember Herbold's office and SOCR on amendments to the original proposal to provide additional protections for Seattle renters.