Southern California Housing Rights Center
1020 N. Fair Oaks Ave
Pasadena CA 91101
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(LOS ANGELES, 5/09/2002) - - A major Southern California publisher has settled potential fair housing claims against it by ending a policy of printing landlords' classified ads that indicate discrimination against participants in the federally subsidized rental assistance program formerly known as Section 8. Under its agreement with the Southern California Housing Rights Center, the San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group (SGVN), which publishes four newspapers including the Pasadena Star-News, has already begun displaying on a daily basis a prominent anti-discrimination message in each of its newspapers classifieds sections. The wording of the message, in relevant part, reads as follows:
"Also, the SGVN will no longer accept advertising containing the phrase: "No Section 8" in accordance with California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). If you have any questions regarding FEHA, contact the Housing Rights Center at 626-791-0211."
The publisher also agreed to send key staff persons to the Center's Fair Housing training. Californias FEHA, as codified at Section 12955 of the California Government Code, prohibits the owner of any housing accommodation or any person or entity engaged in any aspect of housing from discriminating against or harassing any person because of the race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, or disability of that person. Source of income was added as a protected class in 2000. The Housing Rights Center (formerly the Fair Housing Council of San Gabriel Valley and Westside Fair Housing Council), along with the National Housing Law Project and the State of California's Legislative Counsel have determined that the Housing Choice Voucher (formerly Section 8) subsidies are Aincome@ within the meaning of Section 12955. HRC and its partners have pointed out that discrimination against housing subsidy recipients is the only problem discussed in the legislative reports as the California legislature was adding source of income to FEHAs protected class list. The analysis used by each legislative committee includes a full paragraph speaking exclusively to Section 8 discrimination and its by-products:
"Proponents contend that this form of discrimination is creating tremendous hardships for the elderly and people with disabilities, who now find that they are being lawfully discriminated against because they are recipients of Section 8 assistance. The discrimination is also making it harder for people trying to transition from welfare to work, and for working families with low or modest income."
The State of Californias Legislative Counsels office agrees that the new law prohibits such discrimination. Its legal memo states that the provisions relating to source of income "were enacted as part of a legislative scheme intended generally to prevent landlords from terminating tenants on the basis that all or part of their rental payments were derived from federal assistance, known as Section 8 housing vouchers. . . ." HRC led a group of five Southern California fair housing agencies in a collaborative policy paper that incorporated the legislative action history showing that Section 8 discrimination was the very evil the California legislature intended to eradicate. It also provided evidence (including 35 ANo Section 8" ads published in Los Angeles in a two-day period) and statistics that the severe impact of discrimination feared by the legislators was leading its toll. The state Department of Fair Employment and Housing is now reconsidering its initial position that Section 8 discrimination is not prohibited by FEHA. While not prohibited under federal fair housing laws, twelve other states prohibit such discrimination.