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Delaware Seeks to Strengthen Source of Income Protections

The Delaware General Assembly is considering Senate Bill 90, which would remove an exemption from the state’s fair housing laws that protects housing providers. Current state law includes “source of income” as a protected class. However, current law also exempts housing providers from required participation in government-sponsored rental assistance programs, like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, and states that housing providers are not subject to administrative or judicial proceedings that investigate fair housing discrimination due to their nonparticipation. Passage of Senate Bill 90 would be a devastating blow to housing providers in the state, particularly small mom-and-pop owners.  

Historically, source of income mandates are used to improve and expand access to housing for HCV holders by requiring housing providers to accept vouchers and participate in the program. However, these mandates do nothing to change the programmatic challenges that deter housing provider participation in the first place and have little benefit to the renters the legislation intends to help. In fact, one U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-funded study found that 68 percent of rental property owners in the study’s dataset who refuse to accept voucher holders had accepted them previously.

Most owners do not have the capacity to manage the administrative burden that follows from acceptance of a voucher. Many affordable housing providers dedicate their business entirely to managing the multi-level process that is required to participate in the HCV Program. It can be (and often is) a full-time job to coordinate with Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) that administer the federal subsidies locally. This would be particularly burdensome for a property manager operating a small business or “part-time landlords” investing in their retirement.

Due to the overly burdensome nature of the HCV program, the Delaware Apartment Association utilized the National Apartment Association’s (NAA) Call to Action service for affiliates to get their members engaged in the policy discussion and urge state legislators to support Section 8 program improvements; increased funding for more vouchers and more consistent program administration; and incentive-based solutions that encourage housing providers to participate voluntarily, rather than mandating participation through source of income protections.

NAA strongly supports improvements to the HCV program to incentivize housing provider participation and improve housing outcomes for participants overall. In fact, this message was a key part of the 2021 Advocate Conference. Even as industry advocates work on federal solutions, source of income remains a hot topic for state and local governments as more states consider solutions to housing affordability and seek ways to find safe and affordable housing for the low-to-middle income population. Currently, approximately 19 states and 92 localities now have SOI protections.

To better assist our affiliates, NAA has a plethora of resources available to support the industry’s advocacy at the state and local level. In addition to our issue-specific materials which can be found on the Source of Income policy page, NAA offers grassroots campaign services to our state and local apartment association partners.

To learn more about our grassroots services and how to create a call to action that positively impacts policy for the industry, contact Austin O’Boyle, Manager of Grassroots Engagement. For assistance with source of income legislation, please contact or direct questions to Jodie Applewhite, Manager of Public Policy.