On July 21, the City Council will consider an update of the Fair Housing section of the Ashland Municipal Code (Ch. 10.110) to newly establish domestic partnership status and age as protected classes. The suggested language to be included in the Fair Housing ordinance represents the cumulative efforts of two years’ worth of research, community dialog and discussion, and includes some general “housekeeping” updates to the Ordinance needed to bring it up to date with State protections and City policies.
In 2013, the Associated Students of Southern Oregon (ASSOU) student government prioritized having student status added as a protected class to the City’s Fair Housing Ordinance in response to discrimination students have reportedly experienced in trying to secure rental housing in Ashland. To that end, the ASSOU student government undertook several actions, including approaching the City Council to request amendments to the City’s Fair Housing ordinance. In April of 2014, the Council directed the Housing and Human Services Commission to study the issue and develop a recommendation on whether students should be added as a protected class. For a more complete description of the actions undertaken by the Commission and the Student government please see the Council Communication dated March 14, 2016.
The ordinance has been amended to reflect the feedback from the City Council at its study session held on March 14th. The changes to the ordinance include language to clarify that student grants/scholarships or loans do qualify as a “source of income,” and as such a landlord cannot disqualify a prospective tenant that listed such income on a rental application on that basis alone. The proposed ordinance also expands protections to newly include “Age” and “Domestic Partnership” as protected classes, and removes the exceptions for households that receive section 8 assistance. These additional protected classes will be added to the existing State and federally protected classes already covered by the City’s ordinance, which include; race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, source of income, disability, familial status; Under fair housing law it is unlawful to discriminate against members of a protected class in housing transactions. Amendments also included clarifying language including Emancipated minors as protected under the newly proposed prohibition on “Age” discrimination; Clarification regarding the penalty for violating the ordinance (violation would be a Class I (most severe) violation). These clarifications and amendments have been incorporated into the ordinance presented at first reading for Council’s consideration.