Austin housing discrimination ordinance passes second reading

AUSTIN -- With a growing population and high apartment occupancy rates, finding a place to live in Austin isn't easy. And it can be even harder if you're a veteran, disabled or low-income and depend on vouchers to pay rent; something Danny Saenz learned when he became disabled.

"I had to move because, I was living in South Austin and I had to move because the corporation that owned the apartment wouldn't take the voucher," Saenz said.

The Austin City Council wants to change that by approving an ordinance to prohibit discrimination by apartment complexes against people who use vouchers as a source of income to pay rent.

"The people that depend on those vouchers are very much in search for housing throughout the city and they need to be able to use that source of income to qualify for housing," said Austin Mayor Pro-Tem Sheryl Cole.

The Austin Apartment Association (AAA) is not a fan of the ordinance.

"We don't agree with having to enter into into a contract with HUD. The program was never intended to be mandatory," said AAA President Robbie Robinson.

Dozens of AAA members wearing yellow stickers reading "No S-O-I," or Source of Income, gathered at the council meeting Thursday to speak against the ordinance.

They say accepting vouchers creates problems.

"The contract supersedes out Texas Apartment Association lease contract," said Robinson. "Not only that, owners of management companies that aren't on the affordable housing side that aren't familiar with the program are going to have administrative burdens, training issues. Lots of things we're just not accustomed to."

Still, the council passed the ordinance on its second reading.

"It is true that Austin has an affordability problem with apartments and you have to acknowledge that," said Cole, "but this particular segment of our population is having an extraordinary problem finding housing."

The council is set to take a final vote on the ordinance at its meeting on December 11th.


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