The Philly City Council wants to strengthen anti-discrimination laws

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The Philadelphia City Council has advanced legislation to strengthen a city law that protects against housing discrimination.

The city’s Fair Practices Ordinance prohibits landlords and property managers from discriminating against people based on what is known as “source of income,” including anyone who would pay rent with a housing voucher.

The ordinance lists “housing assistance programs” as a protected source of income, but does not specifically mention the Housing Choice Voucher Program, a federal rental subsidy offered through the Philadelphia Housing Authority that provides deep discounts to a limited number of low-income residents.

The bill, introduced in February by Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, would change that while laying out in more detail that it is illegal to communicate that vouchers cannot be used to rent or purchase a home.

The measure, which was approved Wednesday after a hearing, also gives residents the right to file a lawsuit if the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission cannot complete its investigation within 100 days. The commission charged with enforcing the ordinance currently has one year to do so.

“Philadelphia landlords are overwhelmingly ignoring that law and openly discriminating against voucher holders, depriving our neighbors of access to the safe, stable, and affordable homes that are critical to successful living, healthy communities, and a vibrant city,” said Gauthier, president of city ​​Council. Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless.

The bill is moving forward as the city faces an affordable housing crisis, exacerbated by historically high rents. A reality that Gauthier fears will make Philadelphia unaffordable for its most vulnerable residents, including the city’s 20,000 voucher households, the majority of whom are Black.

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