New Section 8 Voucher Acceptance Laws in California
California has a housing problem. Bloomberg.com calls the situation a nightmare. The median home price is over twice the national level. The cost of living is one of the highest in the nation. The homeless population in California accounts for 25% of all homeless in the United States, but California’s total population is only 12% of the whole country.
The housing problem in California is complex. There is a housing shortage. In some parts of the state, housing is just too expensive, even for middle-class Americans with a professional job and average income. Some of the crisis is attributed to the companies who have brought in a flood of workers without considering the housing supply. The serious wildfires in California haven’t helped, either. Solving the crisis will take many elements. Just recently, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed two new laws that should give tenants more options when it comes to rental housing.
SB 329 – Mandatory Section 8 Bill
Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles sponsored SB 329, which prohibits landlords from advertising that they don’t accept Section 8. In addition, Section 8 voucher-holders must be treated like other applicants. Landlords cannot discriminate against tenants who use a voucher to pay their rent. Tenants must still meet other terms of the housing owner. This law takes effect on January 1, 2020. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 300,000 Californians use housing vouchers. This bill provides more opportunities for them to find affordable housing in other communities.
SB 222 – Protecting Military Status
California currently prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, or genetic information. SB 222 expands protection to veterans and military status. Specifically, the bill specifies that federal housing vouchers are considered a source of income.
Military status was already included in the California Fair Employment Act, but was not included in the provision that protected against housing discrimination. Sen. Jerry Hill (D- San Mateo) introduced the bill because many veterans or active military personnel were experiencing discrimination from landlords who would not accept vouchers to cover the rent. This law takes effect on January 1, 2020.
Affordable Housing Bills Part of an Overall Push
In October, Governor Newsom signed over 25 bills designed to help with the housing crisis. SB 222 and SB 329 are just two changes to existing rules to facilitate affordable housing in California. Tenants who rely on vouchers can no longer be discriminated against when looking for housing. By streamlining the permit and approval process to encourage more housing units to be built and supporting low-income resident’s ability to find affordable housing, the California legislature hopes to improve the overall situation in California. It will take time to change the tide, but Californians who have vouchers to assist with housing costs will have more options starting in the New Year.