David Garrick, San Diego Union-Tribune
Aiming to prevent discrimination against the poor and minorities in a tight housing market, San Diego is considering a new law that would prohibit landlords from rejecting tenants because they use federal vouchers to help pay their rent.
Supporters of the proposed law say letting landlords blackball people who qualify for federal vouchers is partly responsible for San Diego’s stark racial segregation, with minorities dominating southern areas and whites dominant in northern areas.
More than 85 percent of the 36,000 people in San Diego who have secured federal vouchers are minorities, and the vast majority of them live south of Interstate 8.
San Diego would be following the lead of San Francisco, Santa Monica and several other cities by passing such an anti-discrimination law, which would only force landlords to consider applicants with vouchers, not require them to be chosen as tenants.
Critics say the proposed law, which the City Council is scheduled to debate in late July, aims to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist. They stress that all households in San Diego that qualify for vouchers, often called “Section 8” vouchers, have secured housing.
They also say the law would force landlords to deal with an onerous federal bureaucracy that brings with it mountains of paperwork, inspections and difficulty securing rent increases.
In conjunction with the new law, [Councilwoman Georgette] Gomez proposes creating a $1 million fund that would be set aside to pay landlords if tenants using vouchers damage property or fail to pay their rent.
Councilman Scott Sherman, however, said the $1 million would be diverted from the fund used to help cover rent, potentially depriving 100 families from securing housing with the help of vouchers.
He also raised questions about how the new law would be enforced.
The proposed law is scheduled for consideration by the full, nine-member council on July 31.