2015 News

Two new St. Louis laws confront housing segregation

Two new laws in St. Louis will expand housing options for Section 8 renters in the city. Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia sponsored the measures, which were influenced by recent research at Washington University in St. Louis.​

“Section 8 renters are highly segregated in low-in​come communities,” said Molly Metzger, an assistant professor at the university’s George Warren Brown School of Social Work who testified in support of the laws, which took effect this month. Metzger is a faculty director for Inclusive Housing research at the Brown School’s Center for Social Development. Her policy brief on Section 8 in St. Louis can be found​ here.

“These new laws both are steps in the right direction,” Metzger said. “They will provide Section 8 renters with more options so that they are more able choose for themselves where to live.”

St. Louis Civil Rights Enforcement Agency Director Charles Bryson and Building Commissioner Frank Oswald supported the measures. Metzger testified in support of the bills at a Feb. 4 meeting of the Board of Aldermen’s Housing, Urban Development and Zoning Committee.

Compared with other low-income housing programs such as public housing, the Section 8 housing voucher program is intended to provide more extensive and inclusive housing choices for low-income renters. Yet Section 8 renters seeking apartments often come up against landlords who are unwilling to accept their vouchers as a form of payment, Metzger said. As a result, Section 8 renters often find themselves with few options. The new laws are intended to change that.

Until now, landlords who receive Section 8 payments had been required to obtain a special “Section 8 Occupancy Permit” from the city, involving numerous inspections not required of other landlords. The first new law, Ordinance 69948, strikes down this requirement, lessening the burden on landlords who participate in the program. Lewis Reed, president of the Board of Alderman, co-sponsored the measure.

The second law, Ordinance 69953, provides clearer fair housing protections for Section 8 renters. Now landlords may not have a “No Section 8” policy. While they may reject an application from a Section 8 renter for other reasons, they may not reject a renter only because he or she uses a Section 8 voucher. Reed and Alderwoman Marlene Davis co-sponsored the measure.