Cuyahoga County renters face housing discrimination over using Section 8 vouchers

Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 3:44 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish is putting an end to housing discrimination, and local nonprofits are cheering him on.

Michael Lepley and his team at the Fair Housing Center For Rights and Research have one thing on their minds: Making sure you have a stable and safe place to live.

“There’s a lot of suffering that we see. When folks call us, they’re often in a state of distress because they’re experiencing something out of control,” said Lepley.

Many of their clients are looking for a home and are using housing vouchers from Section 8 provided by the government to pay their rent.

In Cuyahoga County, 89% of voucher participants are Black, and when they hit the housing market, suddenly all of their choices for homes in safe, affordable neighborhoods disappear.

Lepley says it’s because they can’t find anyone willing to accept their voucher.

“Some landlords refuse to accept a housing voucher as a proxy for race-based discrimination,” said Lepley. “It’s important for people to have safe and healthy housing, and this program can do that.”

A new form of legislation is being pushed by Budish. It would hold property owners accountable for discriminating against potential voucher renters, while also financially rewarding those who do accept the vouchers.

“In other states, what has happened is that source of income is defined loosely and some courts have found that the concept of source of income doesn’t include vouchers,” explained Lepley.

But will this piece of legislation truly change people’s lives or will it be just a piece of paper that had good intention?

“Best-case scenario, the county passes the policy in the way the executive proposed because I think it will help tens of thousands of people in Cuyahoga County,” said Lepley.

It’s something that will only happen with the correct phrasing and the right number of votes.

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