Judge upholds city ban on Section 8 rent bias

February 19, 2009
A New York City law that makes it illegal for landlords to discriminate against tenants who receive government subsidies has passed its first major legal test, after a justice in Manhattan upheld a broad interpretation of the law.
     The law, which went into effect last March, prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants based on their use of federal rent subsidies known as Section 8 vouchers, or any other form of local, state or federal government assistance.
     Tenants and housing advocates had complained that as once-struggling neighborhoods had gentrified, many property owners were refusing to accept the vouchers, as a way to force low-income renters — many of them black or Hispanic — out of their buildings or keep them out. Landlords said their reluctance to take the vouchers had nothing to do with race or income, but stemmed from the payment delays and other bureaucratic problems with the way the city administers the federal Section 8 program.
     Tenants who receive the Section 8 subsidies pay about 30 percent of their income toward rent, and the vouchers cover the rest.