April 12, 2019: We’re excited to announce that Baltimore Acting Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young today signed legislation that prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants based on their source of income (SOI). The Public Justice Center worked with the Homeless Persons Representation Project and a broad coalition of advocacy groups to support this legislation. We’re grateful to bill sponsor Councilmember Ryan Dorsey and all councilmembers who supported the bill. Baltimore City now joins over 75 jurisdictions from across the country that have enacted laws protecting tenants from SOI discrimination. This is a strong first step in combatting SOI discrimination in Baltimore City and places renewed pressure on neighboring jurisdictions and the state government to enact SOI protections of their own.
CB 18-0308 expands on Baltimore’s 2007 Inclusionary Housing law to provide protections to a greater number of renters across the city. Source of income includes any lawful source of income from employment, government or private assistance, as well as alimony, child support, inheritance or gifts. Under the new law, landlords may still deny housing to an individual based on other non-discriminatory factors such as rental history or criminal record, but a prospective tenant can no longer be turned away because of the type of income they are using to pay rent. Under the bill’s language, a landlord in an apartment complex would still be able to discriminate against a voucher holder where 20% of the units in the complex are already rented to voucher holders. This 20% rule would lapse after four years if the City Council does not act to extend it.
SOI discrimination predominately affects some of our city’s most vulnerable residents by locking them out of areas with better employment opportunities and quality of life. As Tisha Guthrie, a fitness professional and social worker who experienced SOI discrimination first hand wrote earlier this year in a Baltimore Sun op-ed: “This form of discrimination is insidious. It hurts veterans, severely rent-burdened families trying to get on their feet, persons with disabilities and elderly people. It also contributes to and exacerbates homelessness.” Bill sponsor Councilmember Ryan Dorsey added, “Prohibiting source of income discrimination is an important step toward de-concentrating poverty in certain communities, helping more people to move to areas of opportunity, and de-stigmatizing and dispelling misconceptions about housing assistance. Passing this law in Baltimore City will also assist in passing a similar law in Baltimore County and statewide in Maryland.”
We applaud Acting Mayor Young’s decision to quickly sign CB 18-0308 into law and eagerly look forward to working with him and the entire Baltimore City government to ensure that these new protections are enforced strongly and equitably and to prevent any erosion of the underlying protections the bill puts in place.
The following organizations supported the passage of CB 18-0308:
ACLU of Maryland
Baltimore City Branch, NAACP
Baltimore Housing Roundtable
Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership
Citizens Planning & Housing Association of Baltimore
Community Development Network of Maryland
Disability Rights Maryland
Healthcare for the Homeless
Homeless Persons Representation Project
Housing Our Neighbors
Jews United for Justice
Public Justice Center