United States

Judge: Austin Housing Vouchers Ordinance to Proceed

A judge refused to delay an Austin ordinance that would prevent apartment complexes from turning away applicants who rely on federal vouchers to pay their rent.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks on Friday rebuffed an effort by the Austin Apartment Association to have an injunction issued against the ordinance, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

The Austin City Council in December passed the so-called source of income ordinance, which allows tenants to avoid public housing projects in favor of privately owned options.

According to the ordinance, landlords can't discriminate against applicants because their rent payment includes federally-funded Section 8 housing vouchers, just as landlords can't discriminate based on other factors, including race and gender.

Sparks said voucher participants "suffer serious discrimination in the Austin private housing market," though he also acknowledged the regulations of the voucher program "place some burden on the landlords subject to them."

In a statement, the city of Austin said it can begin enforcing the ordinance.

If the city receives a complaint regarding source of income discrimination, it can now begin an investigation, Austin officials said.

The apartment association said in a statement that its attorneys are reviewing the ruling to determine how to proceed. In its lawsuit against the city, the association contends the ordinance unlawfully made participation in a cumbersome government voucher program mandatory.

"We note the court stated that there are different, less burdensome ways the city could entice property owners to participate" in the voucher program, the association said in its statement.

The ordinance's supporters have said the measure was intended to provide more housing choice for voucher holders, who are currently concentrated in low-opportunity areas that don't have access to amenities, good schools and jobs with decent wages.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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