Pittsburgh Joins Philadelphia and State College With Adopting Source of Income Protections

On December 15, 2015 the Pittsburgh’s City Council passed an ordinance adding Source Of Income as a protected class within local Fair Housing law. The ordinance includes Housing Choice Voucher holders, or what is more commonly known as Section 8.  


In a recent development in the local fight against housing discrimination, the city of Pittsburgh has passed an ordinance making it illegal for housing providers to deny someone housing because they pay with a Section 8 Voucher or any other kind of government subsidy. As of December, the Pittsburgh City Council, led by the bill’s sponsor Ricky Burgess, has declared Source of Income a protected class, requiring all landlords to accept people who they previously turned away due to the source of their rent payment.

According to Burgess, the refusal to accept Section 8 “is just a vehicle for other types of discrimination,” as many voucher recipients are people of color. Burgess argues that the bill, “will open up a larger discussion about how we protect and how we incentivize success and create opportunities for people who may be in low-income situations.”

Arguments against the ordinance comes from landlords and housing providers in the area, specifically the Apartment Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh. Landlords argue that by participating in the housing voucher program, they must undergo an excessive amount of documentation and inspection in order coordinate with government funded programs like Section 8.

However, whether this pushback stems from landlords’ fears of more paperwork and accountability or incorrectly equating voucher holders with crime and bad tenancy, about half of all vouchers that are issued by the housing authority are denied by housing providers around the city. This fact alone suggests that more protections are needed, as many people who are low income do not have equal access to affordable housing that suits their needs.

Making Source of Income a protected class provides a wider selection of housing for our city’s most vulnerable people. When addressing pushback regarding these kind of protections, it is important to remember that The Fair Housing Act was created with the assumption that not all people have access to the same opportunities in attaining housing. The spirit of the Act involves giving people equal choice regardless of membership in a protected class. Refusal of landlords to accept housing vouchers limit the housing available to people who are low income. People will still be denied if they didn’t pay their rent in the past. They may still be denied for credit history, or for criminal history. There are still legal reasons to refuse someone housing. However, in Pittsburgh, Source of Income is no longer one of them.



If you were denied housing due to using a Section 8 voucher or other source of income Click HEREto file a complaint.