Renters who receive housing aid from the government may have more housing options in Madison if the City Council adopts a proposed Section 8 ordinance tonight.
The ordinance was crafted in an effort to prohibit landlords from discriminating against potential tenants who receive financial aid; it would require all landlords to accept Section 8 vouchers.
Sponsored by Alds. Brenda Konkel, District 2, Todd Jarrell, District 8, Mike Verveer, District 4, and Matt Sloan, District 13, the anti-discriminatory plan is making its third appearance in front of the Council after two previous attempts to establish similar proposals failed.
Jarrell said Section 8 was originally established to decrease the concentration of “poverty pockets” in cities by allowing low-income tenants to better afford renting in other areas. However, he said, some area landlords turn down voucher recipients based solely on their Section 8 status.
“All we’re saying right now is that you can’t discriminate based on Section 8,” Jarrell said. “Right now we have people who are saying ‘No, we won’t help you because you qualify for Section 8.'”
The Community Development Authority and the city’s Housing Committee endorse the ordinance. The two panels are comprised of landlords, tenants and people uninvolved in renting issues, Konkel said.
The Joint City-County Housing Provider Section 8 Advisory Commission, a panel of area landlords seeking to increase landlord participation in the program and currently studying the implications of Section 8, wants the Council to delay adoption of the ordinance.
“This ordinance would moot our efforts and significantly decrease our ability to successfully and effectively expand Section 8 housing opportunities for those who need it,” Gregg Shimanski, chairman of the commission, wrote in a letter to the Equal Opportunities Housing Commission.
Ald. Linda Bellman, District 1, said she would vote against the ordinance because the advisory committee has not finished gathering information about Section 8, which she predicts will be done within two to three months.
“I would like to hold off until the commission has their results,” Bellman said. “They are a hard-working committee, and I think they’re really looking at all aspects of Section 8. We should make a decision based on facts and stats rather than hype — this is a very emotional issue.”
Konkel said a vote on the ordinance would be “really close,” dividing supporters of the ordinance and those agreeing with landlords, who argue participation in the Section 8 program should not be required.
While he does not know which way he will vote, Ald. Gary Poulson, District 20, said the ordinance might not be adopted.
“From what I see and what I hear, there are not 11 votes to pass it at this time,” Poulson said.
The Council meets tonight at 6:30 in room 201 of the City-County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Dr.