© 2023 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Syracuse bans Section 8, public assistance housing discrimination

Tom Magnarelli
Activists from ARISE, the independent living and resource center for disability rights in Syracuse at Monday's common council meeting.

The Syracuse Common Council has voted to ban housing discrimination in the city based on source of income, such as public assistance. Critics of the ban said it will create a more cumbersome system but supporters said it is a step forward.

Activists from ARISE, the independent living and resource center for disability rights in Syracuse came to the Council in favor of the ban. Agnes McCray said the measure will require landlords to take another look at an applicant beyond whether they are on public assistance such as Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.

“It’s not easy looking for somewhere to live when you’re told straight off on the application, if you’re on SSI you need not apply, if you’re on PA you need not apply," McCray said. "That just excludes so much of this city’s population.”

The ban makes it illegal to advertise no Section 8 housing vouchers when renting a property.

Councilor Jean Kessner said there are people in Syracuse who qualify for the assistance program called Section 8, after being on a waiting list for years, who have to turn vouchers back in because no landlord will honor them.

"We have residents who are blind or otherwise disabled who cannot find housing," Kessner said.

Two councilors voted against the legislation, Republican Joe Carni and Democrat Chad Ryan. Ryan said landlords that do not want to rent to those on public assistance, or PA, will continue to do so.  

“If you’re not allowed to advertise against it, advertise we don’t accept PA, you show up to show the apartment, you meet with the person, you know they’re going to be on PA, you know you’re not going to rent to them, maybe you do, maybe you like them, but most likely these folks are not going to rent to them," Ryan said. "You’ve wasted their time and your time.”

Ryan said the regulation should be done by the county or state to create a level playing field throughout the region.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.