CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Aug. 22, 2022) – UPDATE: The Charlotte City Council on Monday approved amendments to a policy that protects people seeking to use vouchers and other lawful sources of income to rent units in housing developments financially supported by the city.
The amendments clarify that the recently adopted policy applies to the housing owners and/or providers responsible for rental eligibility decisions, and name actions the city can take to respond to violations by a provider. The amendments go into effect immediately and include:
- First violation: Compliance training and a fine up to $23,011 if the violation is not cured in 30 days.
- Second violation: Fine up to $57,527 if the violation is not cured in 30 days.
- Third violation: Fine up to $115,054 if the violation is not cured in 30 days, and potential preclusion from future city programs or awards.
The maximum fines mirror those set annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. If the housing provider does not cure a violation within 30 days, they must pay the applicant who was denied housing $100 each day until the violation is cured, for up to 180 days.
The policy was adopted on July 11; the council also directed city staff to reassess enforcement provisions and review options with the Great Neighborhoods and Economic Development committees. The Great Neighborhood Committee on Aug. 15 recommended the new amendments to the full City Council.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (July 14, 2022) – The Charlotte City Council on Monday voted to adopt a new city policy that protects prospective tenants in City of Charlotte-supported housing developments from being disqualified from renting a unit because they participate in a rental subsidy program.
The policy stems from the city's ongoing work to study and address discrimination based on sources of income, study and address discrimination based on sources of income, particularly a tenant's use of Section 8 housing choice vouchers and other rental subsidies. The city is prioritizing making safe and affordable housing more available to people who earn low-to-moderate incomes, in order to improve their opportunities for upward mobility.
"Far too many of our neighbors who use vouchers aren't able to find housing," said Shawn Heath, director of the city's Housing & Neighborhood Services Department. "Through this new policy against discrimination, the city is working to change that."
The policy does not prevent a property owner or manager from determining, in a commercially reasonable and nondiscriminatory manner, a housing applicant's ability to afford to rent a property. Landlords can decline renting to a potential tenant, but not because of a lawful source of income.
"We're trying to get the playing field as level as we possibly can," Heath said. "I don't know if it can ever be completely level, but if prospective tenant A and prospective tenant B knock on the door, and one of them has a voucher and one of them doesn't, we would love for the housing provider to be in a position to be as close to indifferent as possible."
The city already applies this protection to affordable housing developments supported by voter-approved bonds through the city's
Housing Trust Fund. The new policy extends protections to other city-supported projects, including:
Affordable housing developments that receive city subsidies or incentives, such as conveying city-owned land to a developer to build affordable housing.
Market-rate housing by a master developer or a third-party developer that is supported by the city through programs such as
tax increment grants (reimbursed property taxes awarded to projects meeting economic growth and land use goals), or
capital investments that improve infrastructure.
The new policy does not apply to rezoning requests; applying it to rezoning requests would require North Carolina General Assembly legislation. Neither does the policy apply to housing developments that do not use City of Charlotte support. The city will encourage these housing developers to voluntarily accept tenants with all forms of rental subsidies.
The policy was one of
a set of recommendations from the community-led
Source of Income Ad Hoc Advisory Committee, which was established in April 2021 and charged with finding ways to increase acceptance of all forms of rental subsidies. The committee's members represent real estate, development, housing policy and faith-based organizations.
Residents who believe they have been denied access to housing based on a lawful source of income may initiate a complaint by
calling 311. Any investigations into noncompliance will be conducted by
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations.
What are lawful sources of income?
Lawful sources of income shall include income from:
A lawful profession, occupation or job.
Any government or private assistance, grant, loan or rental assistance program, including federal and other rental subsidy programs. Any legal, documented gift, inheritance, pension, annuity, alimony, child support, or other consideration or benefit.
What are housing choice vouchers and how do they work?
The federal government's Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8, helps families with very low incomes, older people, and people with disabilities afford decent, safe and sanitary housing in the private market. The program is the largest source of rental subsidies in the Charlotte area.
Participants can choose single-family homes, townhouses or apartments that meet the requirements of the program. Vouchers are not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects.
Housing choice vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies.
INLIVIAN is the Charlotte area's public housing agency. INLIVIAN receives federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher program.
A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by INLIVIAN on behalf of the participating individual or family. The participant then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.
Why the interest in increasing the number of vouchers accepted by landlords?
Based on a study by INLIVIAN, from 2017 to 2019, 21% of vouchers granted to households expired before they were used. Of the 79% of vouchers that were successfully used, the average time it took someone to search for housing and use a voucher was 73 days.
Upward mobility, housing affordability and housing access are issues the city continues to grapple with. Although it is not a full solution, this policy is one useful tool and a meaningful step in the right direction.
Will the policy help people with low incomes access market-rate housing?
The Housing Choice Voucher Program supports people who make no more than 50% of the area median income (in Charlotte, $47,100 for a family of four), and HUD establishes a maximum rental limit for residents using a voucher. As such, market-rate units are often not accessible to voucher holders.
How will the city implement the policy and ensure compliance by developers and property managers?
The City Council has directed staff to revisit how the city will enforce the policy. A City Council committee will consider enforcement recommendations before the recommendations are discussed and voted upon by the full City Council.
Housing providers will be in violation of the new policy if the reason for denying an applicant is because of the applicant's lawful source of income. To implement the new policy in the community, city staff will:
Train housing developers who receive city support, and their property managers, on the policy.
Educate prospective tenants on topics such as tenant-landlord relations and
Track voucher and rental subsidy acceptance rates through annual reporting, and address trends as needed.
Any investigations into noncompliance will be conducted by
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations.