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Discrimination against potential tenants who use government housing vouchers now is officially illegal under Naperville city code.
The city’s fair housing ordinance has prohibited discrimination on the basis of income since 1976, but it never defined what counts as a “legal source of income” until Tuesday.
Income now is defined to include housing vouchers as well as child support, medical assistance from the local, state or federal government and any other funds with which an individual supports himself or herself.
The code change approved 5-4 Tuesday means all landlords will be required to give voucher-holding applicants the same consideration they would other applicants. It does not require landlords to rent to voucher-holders who don’t meet other screening criteria, including credit score, criminal history and references.
Landlords also won’t be forced to rent to a voucher tenant if the unit would require renovations to meet federal housing quality standards; and they are free to rent to another tenant who can pay in full.
Council members Judith Brodhead, Kevin Gallaher, John Krummen, Rebecca Boyd-Obarski and Becky Anderson voted for the code update, saying it will help Naperville be a leader in fair housing.
“This is all about giving a fair and equal chance,” Anderson said. “We’ll enrich our community by making it more diverse and welcoming to all.”
Mayor Steve Chirico and council members Patty Gustin, Paul Hinterlong and Kevin Coyne voted against it, raising concerns about forcing small landlords to participate in the housing voucher program and about unintended consequences from additional regulations.
Gustin also said Naperville already is a leader in fair housing. About 500 of the 2,907 people who hold housing vouchers from the DuPage Housing Authority live in Naperville, making up 17 percent of the total. The city, meanwhile, has about 10 percent of DuPage County’s population; so by the numbers, it is housing more than its fair share of voucher tenants.
Two voucher holders were among 15 speakers who addressed the council before the vote, saying the move to define vouchers as legal income would help people find a place to lease.
Johan Hendrikson, a graduate student at North Central College who is a housing voucher recipient, said he had to call about 20 landlords before finding a one-bedroom apartment he could afford using his income and the voucher as a supplement.
“Many places I spoke with do not accept the voucher,” Hendrikson said. “Housing discrimination exists, even here in Naperville. I felt it firsthand.”
City council members also said the city should work with real estate groups and the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce to educate landlords about the housing voucher program, which provides little-known tax breaks to those who participate.
Daily Herald/Marie Wilson 10.05.16