Bill to end housing discrimination passes House, Senate
UPDATE: (March 3, 2020):
In a 25 to 15 vote, HB6 passed through Virginia's Senate on Tuesday.
The bill, introduced by Del. Jeffrey Bourne (D-Richmond), aims to end housing discrimination in the Commonwealth.
If passed, it would add discrimiation on the basis of a person's income to the list of unlawful discriminatory housing practices.
The bill now heads to Gov. Ralph Northam's desk for final approval.
A bill making its way through Virginia's General Assembly would make it illegal for landlords to discriminate based on a person's source of income.
House Bill 6, introduced by Del. Jeffrey Bourne (D-Richmond) defines "source of income" as any source that lawfully provides funds to or on behalf of a renter or buyer of housing.
"What it boils down to is that the government is paying part of the rent for the person and the person has to pay a smaller amount," said Sam Nickels, Executive Director of Our Community Place. "So, it becomes more affordable."
Nickels said hundreds of people in Harrisonburg are turned away from housing every year because landlords refuse to accept vouchers.
"The problem is that some landlords think that folks who have vouchers are negative for one reason or another," Nickels said. "They have myths that they're drug addicts or mentally ill, and dont want to rent to them."
Suzanna Marshall, who was homeless for eight years and struggled to find affordable housing said this bill would be "life-saving" for people in her situation.
"I'm out here living in shelters and trying to get a place for my children," she said. "Everywhere I called they said 'well we don't take vouchers.' I called like 35-40 places and then my voucher time ran out and they said we'll have to put you back on the list and it'll be another year to three years."
HB6 exempts landlords with four or less units or more than a 10 percent interest in more than four rental dwelling units in Virginia at the time of the alleged discriminatory housing practice.
The bill passed the House with a 61-37 vote.