Athens City Council voted Monday to update the list of protected statuses to include source of income as protected from housing discrimination.
Source of income discrimination (SOID), is refusing to rent to someone based on whether they have a job, what that job is, or whether they are receiving social security or other assistance. Council Member Arian Smedley, who represents the west side and introduced the ordinance, said this new protection will protect vulnerable demographics.
“It’s a way to protect some of your most vulnerable neighbors,” Smedley said.
Smedley said the issue was brought to her attention after being tagged to a news story about something similar in Bexley, Ohio. The poster asked her if something similar was possible in Athens.
“It’s important that elected officials are responsive to their constituents,” Smedley said. “And the opposite is also true — it’s important that we have engaged citizens and look for ways to improve the lives of our citizens.”
From there, she said, she worked with other members of council to help modify existing protections against other demographics, such as race and sexual orientation.
“The addition of source of income was fairly easy in that sense,” Smedley said.
Smedley added she believes the city will continue to develop housing policy as the city works on the comprehensive plan.
“This is one piece of many things going on in the city, now and in the future, I’m sure that will help address the needs of housing in the city,” Smedley said.
City activists like Damon Krane have long lobbied the city to include source of income as a protected source of discrimination.
Krane, representing the United Athens County Tenants and eight other organizations, read a letter during the meeting urging the City Council to vote yes to ban SOID.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the inequities in society,” Krane said. It is up to Athens City Council to close the gap by ensuring affordable and safe housing for all.”