In 2014, the City of Austin passed an interesting ordinance prohibiting rental housing owners from discriminating against prospective residents based on their “source of income.”
The wording is a bit deceptive, but the purpose of the ordinance was to require apartment and rent house owners to participate in the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program. Usually referred to as “Section 8,” it’s a voluntary federal program that provides housing assistance vouchers to low-income people. Apartment and rent house owners can choose to participate, taking a portion of the rent from the resident and getting the rest in the form of a check from the local public housing authority.
Some apartment owners are set up for this, with employees who specialize in the sometimes complex compliance requirements, and are capitalized well enough to wait for the governments part of the rent payment – which can take several weeks. Others, though, find the program a hassle, and choose not to take part. The City of Austin felt that owners choosing not to participate unfairly limited choices for voucher holders, and chose -over the strong objections of the local apartment owners’ association – to make the program mandatory within their city limits.
In 2015, Senator Charles Perry filed S.B. 267 to make such ordinances illegal in Texas, setting up a battle of interest groups – rental housing owners on one side, low-income housing advocates and city governments on the other.
Your assignment, write a 3 page essay (college-level, double-spaced, etc.) channeling your inner special interest group lobbyist, explaining:
1. What you would do to promote this bill if you were representing housing providers.
2. What you would do to try to defeat this bill if you were representing the government of a city like Austin?
3. What you would do to try to defeat this bill if you were an advocate for low-income housing?
4. Finally, how you would respond to these groups, their arguments and activities if you were a Texas legislator.
Remember, the assignment is about interest groups. Don’t focus on whether you think the bill is good or bad. Focus on how you would manage the issue on behalf of each of the three interest groups.
Submit in Word. Cite your sources.
The Dallas Morning News discussed this issue on their blog: http://trailblazersblog.dallasnews.com/2015/05/house-tentatively-votes-to-bar-cities-from-source-of-income-housing-ordinances.html/
The Austin Business Journal talks about apartment owners’ efforts against the Austin ordinance last fall: http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/news/2014/09/30/austin-landlords-push-back-against-housing-voucher.html
The Austin Apartment Association has a page devoted to the issue: http://www.austinaptassoc.com/source-of-income.html
The Texas Low Income Housing Information Service looks at the issue from the other side: http://texashousers.net/2015/05/22/texas-house-votes-on-source-of-income-protection-ban/
The Texas House Research Organization has a great summary of the bill, and the groups that testified about it before the House Committee on Urban Affairs: http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=84R&Bill=SB267# , then click on “HRO Bill Analysis.”