Council discusses federal housing vouchers and their future

LEX Skyline Big Blue Building

Ordinances that ban source of income discrimination aim to make housing more accessible. | Photo courtesy of Madeline Mele

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This week, the city council’s Social Services & Public Safety (SSPS) Committee Meeting discussed updating Lexington’s Fairness Ordinance to ban discrimination based on a tenant’s source of income (SOI).

While no decision has been made yet, a public hearing will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. in City Hall. We decided to break down some definitions + discussions.

Defining other sources of income

According to ordinance sponsor Councilman David Sevigny, “other sources of income” can mean a variety of things, but notably include:

  • Alimony
  • Child support
  • Section 8 Housing
  • Social Security
  • Other vouchers, including HUD-VASH, which support veterans + their families experiencing homelessness

According to data from the Lexington Housing Authority, only 4% of 557 rental listings accepted Section 8 vouchers. By banning SOI discrimination, this would widen housing opportunities for those holding vouchers.

What an ordinance could look like

In 2021, our neighbors in Louisville enacted a Fair Housing Ordinance that prohibited landlords from discriminating against tenants using lawful SOI. This means those with “veteran status, homeless status, and arrest and conviction records” would have more housing, job, and educational opportunities.

However, similar to the Louisville ordinance, Lexington landlords would not be required to participate in such a program — the presentation states, “Properties with rents higher than the voucher limits would not be impacted. Landlords do not have to lower rent to the voucher amount.”

The impact on tenants + landlords

Some landlords have stated that a ban on SOI discrimination would force them to increase rent to price out housing vouchers. However, the research is out as to whether there is a direct correlation between SOI discrimination bans and more expensive housing.

For tenants, this would provide more options for housing, as well as extend the time allotted (currently ~36 days) to use vouchers.