Talk of the Town: Housing Discrimination

Welcome to the newest feature on our blog, “Talk of the Town.” This feature will highlight a housing issue that’s under discussion in our nation’s capitol and around the country, and invite you to weigh in with your thoughts and experiences. This week’s topic is housing discrimination.

Housing Choice Vouchers, also known as Section 8 vouchers, are intended to provide low income renters the opportunity to live in the neighborhood of their choice while paying an affordable, subsidized rent.

Last week, the New York Times reported that in Lancaster, California, local officials were taking action against the Section 8 voucher program and those who use vouchers. On “Tell Me More” yesterday, NPR correspondents dug deeper into the issue, exploring how discriminating against voucher holders can be a proxy for discriminating against people on the basis of their race.

Discrimination in housing for using a voucher or other subsidy for rent payment, known as source of income discrimination, is pervasive enough that many communities have passed laws outlawing the practice (PDF).

Do you see source of income discrimination in your community? Has your community passed laws to combat this problem? How well have those laws worked? Have you experienced source of income discrimination yourself? Discuss it with us in the comments.


  1. I am helping organize a group in the Chicago area to include Housing Choice Vouchers under its exisitng Source of Income protection of the Human Rights Fair Housing Orinance.
    Yesterday an Op/Ed piece came oput in the Wall Street Journal “Raising Hell in Subsidized Housing” by James Bouvard. The piece was filled with misinformation, inflamatory remarks, and racist undertones. We need to craft a response to send to the WSJ that shows the truth about Housing Vouchers and the need for more Housing Vouchers.
    If NLIHC is crafting a response please let me know so we can coordinate our efforts.

  2. Brendan, thank you for mentioning this op-ed. It’s accessible online to WSJ subscribers only so we were unable to link to it (a list of James Bovard’s writing on WSJ & responses to it is available here: A response from people like you, working day-to-day with voucher issues, can have a lot of sway.
    It sounds like you’re doing interesting work. What sources of income does that ordinance protect, if not vouchers?

  3. Thanks for this great post, NLIHC! Income discrimination is an important issue and clearly affects some of the most economically vulnerable people in our community. Income discrimination, especially as it pertains to housing, can leave some of financially unstable families at risk of experiencing homelessness. To learn more about Housing Choice vouchers, income insecurity, and homelessness, check out our website:

  4. To see the article Op/Ed piece follow try this path:
    1. Go to google/news —

    2. Search for “section 8 crime” and click on news search rather than
    web search (any applicable search terms will work)

    As far as other sources of income protection things such as Child Support, SSI, Social Security, Unemployment, etc. While not as common income discrimination of that sort does happen. For instance a single mother may recieve child support that can help pay her rent or mortgage. Some housing providers would say that may not be a stable source of income and therefore will not grant access to the housing. It is rare, but it does happen.

  5. Catherine, thank you for the link. Good resource!
    Brendan, thanks for filling us in on the types of income that are protected.

    One barrier to passing source of income discrimination laws can be proving the discrimination happens. We’d love to hear from those who have wrestled with this issue.

  6. This is a great study done by the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing about Housing Voucher Discrimination in the Chicago Suburbs.
    Here is a report done by Equal Rights Center in Washington DC This report is a five year reflection on Housing Voucher Discrimination.


  1. […] NHILC wants to know your thoughts on housing […]

  2. […] we discussed here last week, housing discrimination is a real threat to some individuals and families, and can […]

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