Section 8 proposal angers Indianapolis landlords

Advocates for low-income housing are clashing with Indianapolis landlords over a proposal that would make it illegal to reject tenants solely because they use government subsidies to pay their rent.

Opponents tell The Indianapolis Star they fear that requiring landlords to accept Section 8 vouchers could drive some out of business.

The proposal has sparked six months of debate and is likely to undergo changes in a study committee. But there's no compromise in sight.

"This has been going on for months—five or six months now," said City-County Councilwoman Angela Mansfield, a Democrat. "I don't foresee any changes being made that would make this proposal successful."

Supporters of the proposal argue that if someone can afford a landlord's rates, it shouldn't matter where their money comes from. Denying an applicant based on the source of income amounts to discriminating against the poor, said Councilman Leroy Robinson, a Democrat who sponsored the proposal to add "source of income" to the city's housing discrimination law.

A survey by the not-for-profit Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana shows about 82 percent of housing providers in Marion County won't accept Section 8 vouchers. That refusal rate jumps to 90 percent in predominantly white ZIP codes.

"We allege that defeats the whole purpose of the program," said Amy Nelson, the center's executive director.

Lynne Petersen, president of the Indiana Apartment Association, said many landlords reject vouchers "simply because it doesn't fit in with their business model." Section 8 landlords, she said, must meet many federal requirements, including mandatory inspections and stricter rules regarding evictions.

"Some apartment communities are equipped to deal with it, and others aren't," she said. "If the program was really easy to manage, a lot of people would take vouchers."

Republican Councilman Jeff Miller said the Section 8 voucher program is broken but that it's the federal government's responsibility to fix it, not the council's.

Robinson disagrees and notes that as many as 12 other states have added similar laws to the books, along with nearly 40 cities, including Chicago and St. Louis.

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