Public housing provides living space for low-income families and individuals across the state. Here is what you need to know about housing discrimination and public housing in Alabama.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, public housing was established to provide decent and safe rental housing for parties that might not otherwise be able to afford the cost of living, such as low-income families, the elderly and individuals with disabilities.

Public housing comes in all sizes and types, from scattered single-family houses to high-rise apartments and lodgings. There are approximately 1.2 million households living in public housing units throughout the nations. HUD administers Federal financial aid to local housing agencies that manage such affordable housing options at rents that tenants can afford.

Housing authorities use income limits developed by HUD. HUD sets the lower income limits at 80 percent and very low-income limits at 50 percent of the median income for the Alabama county or metropolitan area in which you choose to live. Income limits vary from area to area so it is important to realize that applicants might be eligible for public housing at one HA but not another. The HA serving a community can provide any applicant with the income levels for a specific area and family size. You can also browse Alabama community income limits on the CAFHC website.

Federal laws also apply to public housing and should be taken into consideration. Federal laws in this area focus on non-discrimination and include, among others, the Fair Housing Act, the Civil Rights Acts, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. You can browse the various resources on the Central Alabama Fair Housing Center website to learn more about these laws.

Preventing Discrimination Against Renters using Housing Vouchers

The Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program serves over 2.2 million households and is the largest rental housing program. The program provides funds to state and local agencies, however for the program to work, private landlords must be willing to accept the subsidies and rent to voucher holders. Often times, voucher holders are limited to highly segregated areas with concentrations of high poverty. Although federal law does not prevent landlords from rejecting all housing vouchers, a growing number of states have enacted laws known as source of income protection laws.  These laws do prohibit discrimination based on income sources. Unfortunately, Alabama is not one of those states. Central Alabama Fair Housing Center has advocated for such laws to be passed in Alabama. According to a study from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), state enacted laws improve voucher holders’ ability to successfully use their vouchers in higher-opportunity areas. We believe that enactment of a federal source of income law would ensure additional tenant protections and prevent housing discrimination.

Here we offer practical solutions:

  • Local municipalities should consider their historic patterns of housing discrimination based on race and ethnicity.
  • Cities should consider partnering and providing support to local private fair housing centers. The fair housing centers can support litigation and provide data on patterns of discrimination based on testing evidence.
  • Enacting ordinances that prohibit discrimination on the basis of source of income.
  • Local municipalities should ensure that housing programs and subsidies are implemented in a non-discrimination way.

To learn more about patterns of housing discrimination, we recommend these additional resources:

For more information regarding public and fair housing throughout the great state of Alabama, contact CAFHC.