Following Historic Vote on Rent Protections, San Jose Considers Ban on Voucher Discrimination

As San Jose drafts new rules to protect renters from no-cause evictions, some of the city’s elected leaders also want to prevent landlords from discriminating against recipients of housing subsidies.

The proposal, going before the City Council on Tuesday, comes in response to a report that describes the difficulties of finding housing in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the nation. Called the Analysis to Impediments to Fair Housing, the federally mandated study identified bias against people with government-funded rent vouchers as one of the biggest concerns of the city’s low-income renters.

“The challenges facing voucher holders are no doubt exacerbated by the very high rents tenants face in the current market, but it is sometimes the case that even when a voucher holder can afford the rent for a given apartment, they will be rejected because of the fact that they hold a voucher,” Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco and council members Tam Nguyen, Don Rocha, Sylvia Arenas and Raul Peralez state in a shared memo. “This practice can make it even more difficult for voucher holders to find a place to live.”

Those same council members backed a historic vote last week to prevent landlords from denying lease renewals unless they cite one of a dozen justifiable causes, including non-payment or property damage. The council will vote on May 9 whether to implement the policy right away or to wait a few months before rolling it out. Until then, tenants whose leases expire won’t be protected by the so-called “just cause” ordinance.

The council members proposing the anti-discrimination measure note that Santa Monica was sued over a similar ordinance in 2015. But a court upheld the city’s law earlier this year. “Any future court decisions may be an important factor in evaluating the feasibility of the ordinance,” the shared memo states.

The fair housing report, which the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires from cities that receive federal funding, also points a growing concern about gentrification and displacement.

“Due to rising housing costs over the last several years, residents in low and moderate income neighborhoods have experienced displacement,” according to the report authored by San Jose’s Housing Department, which is helmed by Jacky Morales-Ferrand. “The displacement is expected to continue, particularly in neighborhoods with accelerating growth and new development.”

In the report, Morales-Ferrand points to data from the Urban Displacement Project at the University of California, Berkeley, which found that more than half of low-income households live in gentrifying neighborhoods. In San Jose, the neighborhoods most at risk of displacement include Japantown, Luna Park and Little Portugal.

Local renters responding to a survey for the report said the highest priority for the city should be to increase the supply of affordable housing stock and to provide more rental assistance to the homeless.

Source: City of San Jose

Source: City of San Jose

The report also offers an interesting snapshot of the city’s changing demographics and housing characteristics, including an overall population growth of 6 percent over the past decade. Nearly 80 percent of the city’s population is below the age of 54, but seniors are by far the fastest-growing age group.

About half of all households consist of small families and 8 percent include disabled residents, while 38 percent are designated as low-to-moderate income (up to $75,700 for a family of four). Increasing costs have spurred overcrowding in about 9 percent of households, predominantly among those with the lowest combined income. While 15 percent of rental households report living in overcrowded conditions, that figure grows to 58 percent for those earning less than 80 percent of the area’s average median income.

In the past decade, median income actually fell by 13 percent (adjusted for inflation), while the median home value and rent skyrocketed by 46 percent and 28 percent, respectively. Though the combined variables make it difficult for all low-income and moderate-income renters, the report found that black, Latino and Pacific Islanders face disproportionately higher barriers in finding affordable housing.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for April 25, 2017:

  • Last year, the city issued 197 warnings about illegal fireworks after people submitted 694 complaints online. Because most of the reports didn’t include enough information for the city to cite the offender, many residents said they were disappointed by what they consider a lack of enforcement. “Some residents expected the city to send a sworn officer or code inspector to respond to every online report received,” according to a status report from the city’s Fire Department. “Some expected an immediate response. Some even suggested that the city should utilize drone and ‘shot spotter’ technologies to track down and identify violators, as well as providing information to the media to bring attention to citations issued and other repercussions resulting from illegal fireworks use. As a result, the illegal fireworks pilot program and online reporting tool fell short of many residents’ expectations.”

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. We don’t force farmers to subsidize food. Why are the rules different for those who provide shelter?

  2. It’s a big decision letting somebody live on your property.. Renting to the wrong person can make a property owner’s life a living hell. Seems like landlords ought to be allowed to use all the information available to them when making this important decision. If there are two rental applicants under consideration, one of them accepts public assistance and one of them doesn’t well hell, it’s a no brainer. Go with the one who is less likely to be a persistent pain in the neck with a sense of entitlement.
    Just don’t admit that this was your reasoning though. Lie. The City is incentivizing you to lie. So just lie That’s exactly what these meddlesome leeches at City Hall deserve. Lies.

  3. SanJosebnb is a government marketplace enabling people to rent or lease homes and apartments owned and maintained by private persons who’ve been stripped of their property rights. The program is open to all residents except those serving in the armed forces (the 3rd Amendment forbids the quartering of soldiers during peace time).

    • And don’t forget to mention, SJbnb discount vouchers are available to anyone providing proof of U.S. non-citizenship (or a note from Zoe Lofgren).

  4. We had someone in my condo complex who was accepted a Section 8 tenant and his unit was nothing but problems. Drug users and sketchy people coming and going at all hours. One tenant went bonkers one night and was running around banging on people’s doors. Someone called the cops and she ended up being “5150’d”. It was lovely.

  5. To “Gentrify or not to Gentrify”, that is the question? I suppose one could make the comparison do you want the city to look like San Francisco, or Detroit? Even in Frisco this is a no brainer!

  6. Only in the Bay Area is gentrification considered a negative. Would those folks who decry gentrification rather live in a gentrified neighborhood or a ghetto neighborhood?

    • Progressives delight in using the word gentrification because its class-related origins allows them to express their prejudices under the cover of social commentary. Rather than acknowledging the class differences between those moving in and those moving out of a neighborhood (the word’s traditional definition), progressives, and their card-carrying operatives in the media, use the word whenever non-Asian minorities come under threat of displacement by White or Asian (WhAsians) newcomers.

      For example, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of local African-American residents (San Jose and East Palo Alto) have been systematically displaced over the last three decades by Hispanic newcomers (one or two of whom were in this country legally). The same thing has happened in Oakland, where a sizable percentage of the African-American community has (and continues to be) pushed eastward (where it is ruining a number of small communities). Yet the word gentrification never comes up, for the simple reason that the demographic doing the displacing is Hispanic.

      A number of San Jose neighborhoods have been taken over and trashed by border-jumping Hispanics, but given the silence from the social scientists and media hacks you might conclude these newcomers displaced no one. That’s because the displaced whites and Asians are never granted consideration as victims, only victimizers.

      How was it that Cupertino’s demographic changed dramatically with no outcry over gentrification? Simple, the displaced residents were white, the newcomers were Asian, making it no concern to the otherwise gentrification-sensitive progressives, and nothing out of the ordinary to the whites and Asians who accept the ways of the free market.

      Lastly, speaking from experience, neighborhoods becomes ghettos because they are populated by ghetto-dwellers who, should they be displaced, will inevitably wind-up in ghettos. That’s because the ghetto is in them. How many times have we seen it in public housing projects, where new buildings age at accelerated rates, junk cars and litter cover streets and kill lawns, and graffiti uglies up everything? I think a big part of progressive’s interest in protecting ghettos lies in the fear of how quickly they can be transformed and made attractive, and what that really says about the lowlifes they insist live like lowlifes only because of their surroundings.

  7. My advise to all landlords.

    You can combat these illegal and unconstitutional laws that cities are foolishly passing. I’m sure there will be court challenges to this law and any other law the city passes which infringes on the rights of property owners. Many cases are already in the courts all across the country and now that we have a firm conservative majority on the SCOTUS, it will only be a matter of time before one of these cases is heard by SCOTUS and found unconstitutional.

    In the meantime you need to ask yourself, do I want to stay a landlord? If your answer is yes, then these simple steps will help you avoid the trap these political hacks are setting up for you.

    1.. Do not advertise your rentals, do not list them on line, or in the paper or put up signs. Utilize your social network to find solid market rate renters. Church, civic organizations, close and trusted friends, these folks can help you find someone who is not going to be a lynch around your neck, remember word of mouth only!

    2. Keep your current tenants happy. Don’t be a penny pincher, keep the property in top shape and ensure your good renters are happy and they will stay. Keep rent increases low, jumping the rent to high and losing a good renter costs you money in the long run.

    3. Require the following. Minimum 650 credit score, full criminal and rental and eviction background check. Require a $100.00 application fee per adult when anyone applies. Make all of your units smoke free and don’t allow pets. If you follow these simple steps you will drastically decrease you chances of becoming a victim to HUD and having your property rights yanked out from under you.

    Congress is poised to cut HUD funding by 6 billion in 2018, already 2017 is seeing cuts as there has not been a 2017 budget passed, so there is not going to be any expansion of housing vouchers, in fact by 2019 there should be thousands less due to funding cuts. Contact your Republican Reps and tell them to support the HUD cuts, let your voice be heard, also call or send an email to the White House and tell them you support President Trump’s proposed cuts to HUD.

  8. Discrimination! Another buzz word pulled from the Liberal handbook. I was laughing before I even read these SJI scrawlings.

  9. Section 8 vouchers are not income and as such are not a source of income. They are monies passed from the government to the property owner. Additionally, HUD has historically classified Section 8 as an opt-in program and requires the property owner to enter into contract with the government. If San Jose requires property owners to participate in the section 8 program, they are coercing property owners to sign a contract with a third party, which makes it unenforceable. At least the last I checked contract law.

    Aren’t there other problems the city can address that don’t require expropriation of private property? Law enforcement, water management, or maybe just keeping mattresses off the sidewalks?

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