Learn About the Protected Class of Source of Income

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The Protected Class of Source of Income

Did you know that Source of Income is a protected class in Oregon?  

As of July 1, 2014, in Oregon it is unlawful to refuse to rent to prospective tenants based on their source of income, including Section 8 and other federal rent subsidy payments.

Source of Income Protections for Renters

Prior to passage of House Bill 2639 in 2013, the “source of income” category explicitly excluded federal rent assistance, which primarily refers to the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program. This exclusion meant that Oregon landlords could refuse to rent to applicants, or refuse to even consider them, just because they had a Section 8 voucher, and many housing providers took advantage of this by including ‘No Section 8’ in their rental advertisements.

HB 2639, sponsored by House of Representatives Speaker Tina Kotek and passed during the 2013 legislative session, removed that exception and updated the language to read “Source of income” includes federal rent subsidy payments under 42 U.S.C. 1437f (low-income housing assistance) and any other local, state or federal housing assistance.

Commonly referred to as “Section 8”, the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) is a federally funded program that assists approximately 32,000 households in Oregon annually. It is designed to allow low-income families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities to find decent, safe, and affordable housing in the private market by relying on their own initiative to find the best housing for their own living situation. One of the goals is to deconcentrate poverty by letting families choose where they want to live, thereby promoting economically diverse neighborhoods. 

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program was administered federally and would have technically been excluded from protection under the old law and could have been discriminated against in states without protections as a valid source of income.

More than 28,000 households in Oregon were awarded emergency rental assistance under ERA1 & ERA2 programs – and about 16% of those households made 50 – 80% of the area median income. For 2022 in the Portland – Vancouver – Hillsboro area that would be households of two people who make between $42,600 and $68,160 per year.

There’s also the HUD-VASH program that is designed specifically for assisting homeless veterans with housing through federal rent subsidies – in Oregon between 2008 and 2021, 2,817 vouchers were administered under the HUD-VASH program. There’s also a newer federal rent subsidy from 2020 for veterans called the Shallow Subsidy which provides homeless veterans with a fixed rental subsidy for up to two years, regardless of income.

Under the HCV Program there are special purpose programs as well designed for specific populations, such as rental assistance for Non-Elderly Persons with Disabilities, which has served almost 55,000 people. There are two other voucher programs for people living with disabilities – Certain Developments Vouchers and Mainstream Vouchers

Tenant Protection Vouchers are for people who live in HUD supported housing projects who lose their housing for some reason outside of their control, such as demolition, conversions, etc. Other forms of rental assistance include Foster Youth to Independence Tenant Protection Vouchers and Witness Relocation Vouchers for people in the Witness Protection Program.

Check out this list of HUD Programs to find out what other forms of assistance are available.

Watch this presentation, Fair Housing and Source of Income, Oct. 24, 2022. Presenter: FHCO’s E&O Specialist, Eliza Galaher

The Realities of Source of Income Discrimination

The lack of federal protections for participants of HCVP results in pervasive and widespread discrimination in residential rental transactions. Often the denial of housing will serve as a pretext for a federally prohibited form of discrimination and disproportionately affects renters of color, women, and persons with disabilities. As a result, source of income discrimination contributes to the perpetuation of racially segregated communities and neighborhoods with concentrated poverty.

Source: Biden Wants to Offer More Housing Vouchers. Many Landlords Won’t Accept Them. | The Pew Charitable Trusts (pewtrusts.org) 

While housing choice vouchers are meant to assist people of all incomes in gaining access to reliable housing, voucher holders are often discriminated against in the home seeking process. This type of discrimination creates a disparate impact on voucher recipients who have the financial means to afford housing thanks to the federal assistance yet are denied access to available housing.

Source of Income discrimination defeats the purpose of the housing choice voucher program and its two primary goals: 1) to eliminate concentrations of poverty and the social problems it causes and 2) to provide low-income households with greater access to higher-opportunity neighborhoods.

Although not yet a federally protected class under the Fair Housing Act, Source of Income has been introduced at a federal level and is under review by The United States Committee on Housing, Banking, and Urban Affairs. The Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2022 includes Senate Bill 4485 and the identical House Bill 8213, which aims to expand the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination based on source of income, veteran status, or military status.

Source: Federal Rental Assistance Fact Sheets | Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (cbpp.org)

Housing choice vouchers are a vital resource for people from all walks of life and backgrounds, especially when considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent end to the eviction moratorium in Oregon. Protections around source of income are an important safety net for renters right now. There are also many benefits of the Housing Choice Voucher Program, including increased access to public benefits, educational opportunities for children, improved health, and reduced crime and substance abuse.

Learn More About Source of Income Protections

Curious to learn more about Section 8 or your rights as a renter? Check out these FAQ sheets below: 

Are you a housing provider with questions about your responsibilities when it comes to Source of Income? Check out this resource on our website for landlords regarding their responsibilities surrounding the protected class of Source of Income: 




Resources for Renters Experiencing Housing Insecurity

Housing Choice Vouchers and other rent subsidy programs are administered by local Public Housing Authority – use this link to find the local Public Housing Authority in your area for support

Connect with your local Community Action Partnership of Oregon branch to find assistance in your community 

If you are struggling to pay rent or need access to temporary housing or shelter dial 2-1-1 on any touchtone phone or visit https://www.211info.org/get-help/housing-shelter/   

If you feel you have been discriminated against based on your source of income, you can report discrimination using the following links:

Report Housing Discrimination





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