COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — Beth Fetzer-Rice with the Homeless Families Foundation said once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, problems became crises for so many families.
"The bottom just kind of fell out for a lot of them. Many, many lost their jobs," the foundation's Executive Director said.
It is one reason why she's encouraged to see Columbus City Council move forward Monday with three big changes, part of a "Housing For All" agenda.
"If there is a way to enforce it and keep everyone honest, it could really help," Fetzer-Rice said.
Spearheaded by Council Member Shayla Favor, the first ordinance creates rental receipts. A landlord provides a tenant a receipt if they pay with cash, for example.
"A lot of low-income tenants are unbanked and without access to electronic payment methods, it can become difficult for tenants to prove that they have paid their rent on time," Favor said.
Another move is to provide flexible options for security deposits, like paying in installments.
Council members also said 'yes' to stopping housing discrimination based on someone's source of income.
"Some landlords, not all, advertise rentals with no housing choice vouchers or no section 8 to avoid renting to tenants who use vouchers," she said. "Income discrimination is a proxy for race discrimination with over 58 percent of households in Columbus using vouchers being black households."
All are situations the Homeless Families Foundation team sees often.
"I can't even tell you how many families who have had a housing choice voucher who could not find a landlord to rent to them, and have lost or have been very close to losing their voucher, because it would expire," Fetzer-Rice said. "Families can get taken advantage of. It is not the majority of landlords, but it is enough that we need protections for people."
During the council meeting, neighborhood leaders and volunteers spoke up in favor of the moves.
Up next, they'll start community education, sharing this information with landlords, tenants, and community groups, all ahead of July 1 when this is set to go into effect.
ABC6/FOX28 asked Favor what she would say to people who feel this isn't enough or that this is too restrictive to landlords?
"We are looking at ways to mitigate some risk for landlords who may be apprehensive as we begin to roll this out," she said. "This is just the start of an agenda that I hope to roll out."
She said more is coming, as well as talks about a risk mitigation fund for landlords to help in case someone doesn't finish security deposit payments for example.