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Mayor Murray Backs Proposal To Ban Housing Discrimination Based On Tenant's 'Source Of Income'
Apartment building in Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood

Finding a place to rent in a tight housing market is stressful enough. Being turned down because you are retired or living on disability can make it even worse. That’s why Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says he wants to outlaw discrimination based on a person’s source of income.

Columbia Legal Services attorney Merf Ehman says she recently had a case where a landlord flat out refused to accept any tenants who lived on retirement or disability benefits because, he said, he wouldn’t be able to garnish their wages if they didn’t pay the rent.

“They’re not looking at, do you have a great rental history, or have you always paid the rent? Or you’ve always owned a home and you want to move into a smaller apartment after you retire. So, it can put up a real barrier for folks," Ehman said.

Housing discrimination based on, for example, someone’s race or sexual orientation is already outlawed. This ordinancewould extend that by making it illegal to discriminate against a prospective renter because their primary source of income is a pension or Social Security or unemployment or child support.

And, on the other end of the income spectrum, the law would limit a landlord’s use of preferred employer programs. Under such programs, people who work at companies like Microsoft, Boeing and Amazon are offered deals, including discounts on deposits and fees, to rent.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.