June 2022

Despite new Columbus law, tenants using rental assistance claim discrimination continues

Courtesy of FOX 28
By Lisa Rantala
June 10, 2022

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — A new ordinance in the City of Columbus prohibits income discrimination when it comes to housing. However, those receiving rental assistance claim the year-old law is not working.

“When I call, I get the hang-ups as soon as I mention the word ‘voucher,'” tenant Letisha Pass said after calling ABC6 On Your Side Problem Solvers. “I’m getting so many text messages saying, ‘No, no, no.'”

Pass is currently living in a north Columbus unit on a housing voucher from the Community Shelter Board. She said she’s been out of work due to COVID-related issues but would like to live in a safer area. She claims landlords and property managers encourage her to file out their applications, pay their application fees but then reject her housing shortly after. She said she’s always upfront about her source of income and current low credit score.

“There’s more to life than just money,” Pass said. “It’s what you see. It’s the people.”

Despite new Columbus law, tenants using rental assistance claim discrimination continues

Pass made a complaint to the Columbus Urban League about her claims of income discrimination within the city. The Urban League said the number of these complaints the agency is receiving is increasing. They hold mediations to help educate landlords about the new laws. They also send cases of potential law violations to the city attorney’s office. However, City Attorney Zach Klein has yet to file a case against any landlord in court since the Housing For All law took effect last summer.

Klein’s office sent Problem Solvers this response when asked why:

“We’ve been working with City Council to revise the investigative process established under this ordinance, and they are currently reviewing that process. Any further questions should be directed to Council as they continue to discuss.”

Problem Solvers sat down with Housing Committee Chair and City Councilwoman Shayla Favor and asked if income discrimination is still a problem in Columbus.

“Absolutely. Absolutely,” she responded. “There would be no need for the legislation if it was not.”

Under the Housing For All law, rental assistance including Section 8 must be included as income and landlords in Columbus must take that assistance for qualified applicants. Favor maintains the city needs its landlords to help pull the community out of this current housing crisis.

“We’re going to continue to do everything that we can to improve the process in and of itself, legally. But we do know that it doesn’t happen overnight,” Favor said. “There are bad actors. If you are violating the law, that means you should face the consequences of violating the law. But I want to be clear, it’s not an attack on our landlord community.”

Pass said she’s had her apartment packed up since March hoping she’d be able to move by now. She feels the laws aren’t helping the people like her.

“If they did not want people on these programs, why do they have them?” Pass asked. “It makes people oppressed, no hope, lost.”

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