City seeks feedback on housing vouchers

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Expanding affordable housing to more people in Austin takes center stage Wednesday night.

The city of Austin’s Equal Employment and Fair Housing Office is asking for the public’s opinion about expanding the housing voucher program. This could impact landlords who currently don’t accept vouchers.

Right now, about 15,000 people get affordable housing through the city’s voucher program. That voucher pays 60- to 70 percent of the rent.

For Rufus Jones who is visually impaired and lives with the help of $800 a month, this voucher allows him to have a roof over his head. The problem he faces is limited options of where to live.

The Austin Tenant’s Council found that only 9 percent of rental properties in Austin accept vouchers.

“Most of these places are about income, anyway. They are going to ask you for all of this money, which we don’t have, and you are going to have to come up with — and so you have to use agencies to get help. And there are so many people trying to use those agencies that they are tapped out,” said Jones.

Right now, city officials are exploring changing the city’s Housing Discrimination Ordinance to include “source of income.”

Essentially, a landlord cannot discriminate on who they rent to based on sex, race, or religion, but they can decide not to rent to someone if they have a voucher.

If the ordinance is changed, landlords would have to accept the voucher. So far, city officials have heard a laundry list of reasons from them on why they don’t want that to happen.

“It would increase the number of complaints the city would have to investigate at a cost and it may in addition make the city a less attractive site for developers because of the increased regulation,” said Jonathan Babiak, Administrator for the City of Austin Equal Employment and Fair Housing Office.

City officials will gather feedback Wednesday night on ways this program can expand.

It’s happening at the Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office on east 11th Street from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Those who can’t make it are encouraged to give feedback online or by phone or mail.

Written comments can be submitted to EE/FHO by email to eefho@austintexas.gov, by fax to (512) 974-3278, or by mail to City of Austin EEFHO, Human Resources Department, P.O. Box 1188, Austin, TX 78767.

People may also call 512-974-3262 with questions or for more information

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