Apartment association files lawsuit over discrimination ordinance

AUSTIN -- LaTorie Duncan is grateful to call a house in North Austin home, but getting it didn't come easily.

"I can't see somebody else going through what I went through," said Duncan.

Duncan has a disability and an autistic son. She receives Housing Choice Vouchers, formerly called Section 8. Last year, the house she rented went into foreclosure, leaving her to search for a new home.

"There was like three houses that were for rent on my street and nobody took Section 8. So, I was just kind of surprised, you know and so then I just kept looking and looking. I had like six realtors help me and they were like, 'Nobody's accepting section 8,'" said Duncan.

She tried renting at an apartment complex, but still had no luck. "I mean I had my deposit. I had my application fees. I had everything, and I was looking and looking and it was tough."

Duncan and her son ended up staying with her mom in a one bedroom apartment. She was within two weeks of losing her vouchers when she finally found the house she lives in now.

It's a story the Austin City Council has heard time and time again which is why it passed an ordinance prohibiting property owners from discriminating against people who use vouchers as a source of income.

Less than 24-hours after passing it, a lawsuit was filed by the Austin Apartment Association.

"They have left the association with no alternative but to sue and to sue now," said retired Texas Supreme Court Judge Craig Enoch. He is representing the AAA.

The AAA lawsuit states the ordinance makes a voluntary program mandatory and locks property owners into HUD contracts that regulate rental rates and leases creating costs that will trickle down to other renters.

"It's not that we have anything against the voucher or the person that is a recipient of the voucher, it's the program itself. It's this big book of regulations and rules that we would have to agree to and contract with the government," said Robbie Robinson, President of the AAA.

Council members say the AAA is misinterpreting the ordinance.

"This policy is not mandatory. It simply says that you will not discriminate," said Austin Mayor Pro-Tem Sheryl Cole. "This type of regulation has been upheld in other parts of the country and so we think it is a good policy."

Thirty cities in 11 states and Washington D.C. have similar policies.

"I hear, at every turn, this talk about affordability, this talk about what are we going to do for these folks that are needing housing. The Austin Apartment Association could be the one group to have the single biggest impact as it relates to affordability and to solving our affordable housing and workforce housing solutions and yet they're avidly, avidly opposed to it," said Council Member Mike Martinez. "And it troubles me we're going to have to go through this."

Martinez rents to a voucher holder and says AAA members need more information on accepting vouchers. He says there's no red tape.

It is one inspection a year, it takes about 15 minutes. And to register for the housing voucher program you can do it online. So you just send in the form online. That's literally all it takes," said Martinez.

Friday afternoon attorneys for the city and AAA were set to have a meeting on the next steps. The ordinance is set to go into effect in January.


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment
TRENDING VIDEOS