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Columbus Council Housing Reforms Would Outlaw 'Source Of Income' Discrimination

Columbus Council members Emmanuel Remy and Shayla Favor, Mayor Andrew Ginther, and members Elizabeth Brown and Rob Dorans at an October press conference.
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Columbus Council members Emmanuel Remy and Shayla Favor, Mayor Andrew Ginther, and members Elizabeth Brown and Rob Dorans at an October press conference.

The city of Columbus is hosting a virtual public hearing Tuesday at 5 p.m. to address a proposed "Housing for All" legislative package.

The three pieces of legislation include measures to make discrimination based on source of income illegal, push landlords to offer Renter’s Choice insurance, and move the burden of proof of non-payment from tenants to landlords.

Source-of-income protections were recently passed in neighboring city Bexley. Columbus City Council member Shayla Favor says the measure was introduced to protect people who use housing vouchers to pay rent.

“This piece of legislation would add source of income as a protected class under the Fair Housing Act, which currently protects people from discrimination when they are renting or engaging in other housing related activities," Favor says.

The Renter’s Choice legislation would ask landlords to implement an insurance program that would save renters money on upfront move-in costs.

“It’s a low-cost insurance program that the city would be asking landlords to offer to prospective tenants with the goal of eliminating cash deposits,” Favor explains.

Favor says the last piece of legislation would address rental receipts, which would shift the burden of proving non-payment of rent from tenants to landlords.

“Many low-income tenants don’t have bank accounts or other electronic forms of payment, and they pay their rent with cash or money orders,” Favor says. “This means tenants who pay in cash or money order often struggle to prove that their rent was paid.”

Favor says the legislation aims to help people in poverty gain more equitable access to housing. She plans to host another public hearing after the election, and hopes the three measures will pass by the end of the year and be enacted by spring 2021.