Providence works to ban housing discrimination
By: Ellie Romano
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) - Providence City Council members are working on an ordinance that would ban discrimination in housing based on a person's source of income.
The agenda item came up at the Providence City Council Ordinance Committee meeting Monday night.
A group of city residents who have struggled to get housing because of their source of income rallied outside the meeting and took up two hours of public comment during the meeting.
"When you tell a landlord that you're Section 8, or that you're getting alimony, or that you're getting money from the city or state they say 'no,'" said Malchus Mills.
It took Mills a year and a half to get housing because he said there's a stigma against his source of income.
"I was in the service, so I get a VA pension. I get social security, and I have a Section 8 housing voucher," said Mills.
The Section 8 housing voucher program is the federal government's major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market.
A Section 8 participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects. A family that is issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding a suitable housing unit of the family's choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program.
However, in Providence, there's no existing ordinance that states a landlord has to accept the housing voucher. So if they don't want to, they don't have to.
"The money is legal. So why should they keep turning us down?" said Mills.
The City Council is now drafting an ordinance that would protect Section 8 voucher recipients and ban any type of discrimination based on a person's source of income.
The ordinance was continued in Monday night's meeting because a new draft was introduced and the city's legal team needs time to review it.
In response to the continuance, Mayor Jorge Elorza released the following statement:
I am disappointed that the City Council Committee on Ordinances failed to move this important ordinance out of committee and to the full City Council for a vote. I call on them to send me an ordinance that protects our voucher holders so that I can sign it into law.
Rhode Island is the only state in New England, along with New Hampshire, that does not have this kind of protection in place for Section 8 renters.
©WLNE/ABC 6 2020