Champaign to remove language about federal housing vouchers

By Patrick Wade

The Champaign City Council revisited a year-old issue Tuesday night in a study session, voting 6-3 to delete language from the city’s human rights ordinance that defines Section 8 vouchers as a source of income.

Section 8 vouchers are a federal assistance program designed to provide quality housing to low income families, elderly people and individuals with disabilities. The Council voted in March 2006 to define Section 8 vouchers as a source of income in the human rights ordinance, making it illegal to discriminate against individuals because they use the federal assistance.

Tom Hodson, who works with a nonprofit organization that deals with Section 8 housing, said that this presents myriad problems to landlords.

“(Section 8 voucher holders) are always going to come in with a backload of federal regulations,” Hodson said.

Landlords are required to sign a federal contract with Section 8 tenants, detailing both parties’ obligations. The federal contract supersedes the lease contract if a conflict arises.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

In September 2006, Dist. 5 Council member Ken Pirok, a landlord himself, requested a bill to be placed on the agenda deleting the language from the human rights ordinance. The bill was tabled for a year and will be voted on at the Oct. 16 regular session meeting.

“The things that are in the contract are way outside normal business practices,” Pirok said Tuesday night.

Although the city has not received a complaint of discrimination since the language was added to the human rights ordinance last year, Champaign resident Raymond Wrencher said the discrimination does exist.

“What was established by the Human Relations Commission in the past was necessary,” said Wrencher, a former Section 8 voucher holder.

The Human Relations Commission recommended to the Council on Tuesday night that more language be added to the human rights ordinance, detailing what constitutes discrimination. Under the commission’s recommendation, landlords would not have been required to hold an apartment during the inspection process, make repairs or make changes in the application process.

The Council did not vote on this language Tuesday night, as the first poll to delete the language altogether received a majority.

Dist. 1 Council member Gina Jackson said deleting the language could add to segregation in Champaign.

“We talk about a city of diversity, as long as that diverse person is not living next to you,” she said. “That’s unacceptable.”