80 Percent Discrimination: City Council passes hedged, amended bill that increases housing access for some, not all

Photo by Brandon Soderberg

At the Fair Housing For All rally yesterday, social worker Deborah Woolford whirled a sign all around, way out in front of her then high above her head and danced to the chants of the 40 or so hollering out, “Hey hey, ho ho, discrimination has got to go.”

The group gathered downtown in support of Council Bill 18-0308, Councilperson Ryan Dorsey’s bill which prevents landlords from being able to discriminate against renters because of “source of income”—those using government housing vouchers and those who receive money for a disability, child support, alimony, and more.

“I think it’s unfair that people should be judged according their income and denied fair housing because of the source of income—that’s another sort of discrimination,” Woolford said, taking a break from getting the crowd going her sign by her side. “For an African-American and low-income person it’s injustice all around.”

The sign Woolford held during the rally read, “20% Non-Discrimination is 80% Discrimination.” It was a reference to a proposed amendment to the original bill that would make it so that landlords only had to provide 20 percent of their housing units to those using vouchers.

As far as Woolford was concerned, if 20 percent of renters are not discriminated against for source of income then 80 percent of renters are still being discriminated against.

“What if I was that twenty-first person and I’ve been waiting for long?” Woolford said. “I deserve fair housing just like everybody else, why would you deny me because of 20 percent? You’re still denying me; that’s still discrimination.”

Supporters of the amendment to bill said the amendment is about preventing more concentrations of poverty while supporters of the “clean” amendment-free version of bill like Woolford don’t see it that way. In a city where poverty is deeply-concentrated, the bill would help break up these concentrations long before it reconcentrated poverty; the amendment at best, means more incremental change in Baltimore.

Vernon Brehon stood on the lip of the curb, a sign above his head reading, “Vouchers pay the rent,” wearing a hoodie with the Black Panthers logo and the words “People’s Free Food Program” on his chest, trying to drum up support from cars and pedestrians passing by the group.

“If somebody is using public assistance for that help, they should be able to use it to have some place to live,” Brehon said. “Housing really is hope, it’s really a way to stop some of the cycles that affect the city and all of its inhabitants.”

The group then march a few blocks to the front of City Hall for more testimonials.

“We are gathered today to tell City Hall and the mayor that they have a sworn duty to provide a better quality of life for all citizens regardless of their ethnicity, their age, their gender, their disability, and their source of income,” Reverend Marlon Tilghman said.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Councilperson Mary Pat Clarke, one of the bill’s sponsors, said.

Sh was referencing years of discussion about eliminating source of income discrimination which has become policy in eleven states (plus Washington D.C.) and decades since the Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, part of the Civil Right Acts which prevented discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability.

The NAACP’s Lisa R. Hodges (who recently cowrote an op-ed that ran in the Beat) drew a direct comparison between the source of income discrimination allowed in Baltimore and the country’s racist past.

“They’re saying that you can’t use a voucher, that’s like saying, ‘Your money’s no good here.’ The same thing was said to those who stood at the lunch counters in the 60s,” Hodges said. “This is Jim Crow by another name.”

Tisha Guthrie first applied for housing vouchers in 2004 after she became legally blind due to Type 1 Diabetes and has endured source income discrimination:  “We want the opportunity to move where we desire, we want the opportunities to school our children where we desire, we want the opportunity to market where we desire. We want equal opportunity,” she said.

Mike Bullis executive director of The Image Center for People with Disabilities asked the crowd to imagine a situation in which someone is injured in car crash and must quickly learn to navigate a disability while looking for housing that will assist them using vouchers.

“She has a car accident, finds herself in a wheelchair, has a lot of life changes to work through, but then she’s told ‘you can’t live here’?” Bullis said. “We need affordable housing, we need accessible housing, we need integrated housing.”

Speakers often returned to the amendment, which was, they stressed a “discrimination amendment” that allowed 80 percent of people to still be discriminated against.

Photo by Brandon Soderberg

At City Council later that night, Councilperson Bill Henry, another sponsor of the bill, proposed an amendment to the 20 percent amendment. It would allow the 20 percent amendment to be part of the bill for its first four years and then that part could be reconsidered—an improvement over the 20 percent amendment though hardly the “clean bill” advocates demanded.

And that is what passed in City Council—10 to 5—the bill with an amendment to the amendment. Frustrated shouts of “eighty percent discrimination” from rally attendees in the council chambers followed.

After the vote, Dorsey reflected on the bills’ evolution—or devolution.

“There’s a belief that even if we passed the bill clean, that landlord’s are just gonna change other screening criteria so they justify rejecting the same tenants for different reasons so it’s not going to be effective anyways,” Dorsey said. “That’s not what the data tells us. Places that have these laws do better with voucher placement and voucher usage. But we got this landlord lobby that doesn’t want the bill at all. And the council president is a pretty firm believer in compromising.”

The 20 percent amendment was that compromise. The problem Dorsey said is that it is nearly impossible to prove when landlords are at the 20 percent cap or not. Landlords are legally prohibited from disclosing information about their tenants’ status and its unlikely that Housing Authority of Baltimore City would have the time or resources to look into individual landlords to see if they are under that 20 percent cap and enforce the bill.

Even if the cap was higher than 20 percent that same issue would remain.

“The problem with the [percentage cap] amendment is the inability to actually check in on them and verify their claim that they met the cap,” Dorsey said. “It’s unverifiable.”

Fair housing for all it seems, will have to wait at least four more years.

55 Comments
  1. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Genuinely rarely should i encounter a weblog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you may have hit the nail about the head. Your idea is outstanding; the problem is an element that insufficient persons are speaking intelligently about. I am delighted we came across this during my look for something with this.

  2. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Genuinely rarely should i encounter a weblog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you may have hit the nail about the head. Your idea is outstanding; the problem is an element that insufficient persons are speaking intelligently about. I am delighted we came across this during my look for something with this.

  3. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Genuinely rarely should i encounter a weblog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you may have hit the nail about the head. Your idea is outstanding; the problem is an element that insufficient persons are speaking intelligently about. I am delighted we came across this during my look for something with this.

  4. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Genuinely rarely should i encounter a weblog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you may have hit the nail about the head. Your idea is outstanding; the problem is an element that insufficient persons are speaking intelligently about. I am delighted we came across this during my look for something with this.

  5. 502033 484479Great post. I previousally to spend alot of my time water skiing and watching sports. It was quite possible the best sequence of my past and your content material kind of reminded me of that period of my life. Cheers 354564

  6. Nice blog here! Also your web site loads up fast! What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my web site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  7. One thing I have actually noticed is always that there are plenty of beliefs regarding the banks intentions any time talking about property foreclosures. One fantasy in particular is always that the bank prefers to have your house. The lending company wants your dollars, not your property. They want the bucks they gave you together with interest. Averting the bank will draw a new foreclosed summary. Thanks for your publication.

  8. I would like to show thanks to you just for bailing me out of this particular challenge. As a result of surfing through the online world and getting tricks that were not helpful, I believed my life was done. Living without the presence of answers to the difficulties you’ve resolved by way of this guide is a serious case, and the ones that could have adversely damaged my entire career if I hadn’t come across your web page. That talents and kindness in playing with all the pieces was vital. I am not sure what I would’ve done if I hadn’t discovered such a step like this. I am able to now look ahead to my future. Thank you very much for your professional and result oriented guide. I won’t hesitate to propose the blog to anybody who would need guide on this subject matter.

  9. My wife and i got quite glad John managed to conclude his analysis with the ideas he received while using the web pages. It is now and again perplexing to simply find yourself handing out helpful tips others might have been trying to sell. Therefore we grasp we have got the writer to thank for that. The main explanations you have made, the easy blog menu, the friendships you aid to engender – it is most astonishing, and it’s facilitating our son in addition to our family know that this subject is amusing, and that’s extraordinarily fundamental. Thank you for the whole thing!

  10. I want to express some thanks to the writer just for bailing me out of this type of incident. Just after surfing through the online world and meeting strategies which were not helpful, I assumed my life was done. Existing devoid of the strategies to the difficulties you’ve fixed by way of your main blog post is a critical case, and ones which may have negatively damaged my career if I had not discovered your site. Your own talents and kindness in dealing with all the things was helpful. I’m not sure what I would have done if I hadn’t encountered such a thing like this. It’s possible to now look forward to my future. Thanks very much for this expert and amazing guide. I will not hesitate to recommend your web page to anybody who should get counselling about this matter.

  11. I wish to show my thanks to the writer just for rescuing me from this type of situation. Just after surfing around throughout the world-wide-web and obtaining techniques which are not powerful, I assumed my life was over. Being alive devoid of the approaches to the issues you have solved by way of your entire guideline is a crucial case, as well as those which could have adversely damaged my entire career if I had not come across your website. Your own personal talents and kindness in playing with all the details was important. I am not sure what I would have done if I hadn’t come upon such a subject like this. I can at this moment look forward to my future. Thanks for your time very much for your specialized and effective help. I will not be reluctant to recommend your web blog to anybody who needs and wants guidelines on this subject matter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.