New Redmond ordinance will ban housing ‘discrimination’: Section 8 participants, social service groups applaud Council approval

Finding affordable housing in the City of Redmond will become a bit easier, starting next week.

Finding affordable housing in the City of Redmond will become a bit easier, starting next week.

City Council voted unanimously Tuesday evening to adopt an ordinance that prohibits landlords from refusing to rent to tenants solely because they will be using Section 8 housing vouchers to help pay for their rent. The ordinance will go into effect Feb. 18.

“I fully support this,” said Council President Pat Vache.

The vote was met with a round of applause and came after a public hearing during which 20 people spoke. Most urged Council to support the measure, saying landlords’ refusal to rent solely on the grounds that Section 8 vouchers would be used is “legal discrimination” against a person’s source of income.

“I just don’t think that’s the community we want to be,” Council member Kim Allen said about allowing this discrimination to continue.

Other municipalities such as Seattle, Bellevue and unincorporated King County have already adopted similar ordinances.

City of Redmond human services manager Colleen Kelly told Council this was an important issue to consider because finding affordable housing is a problem city staff members often face when working with people. She said it is in Redmond’s best interests to provide housing at all levels.


The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), helps participants by subsidizing and paying for a large portion of their rent and utility bills using federal dollars.

Redmond residents would apply for the Section 8 program through the King County Housing Authority (KCHA). According to its website (, applicants are entered into a random lottery drawing to be placed on a waiting list to receive vouchers. KCHA accepted applications during a two-week period in 2011 and through that drawing, 2,500 applicants were selected and placed on the waiting list. Depending on what place a person holds on the list, wait times range from one to six months to two years or longer.

Omar Barraza, a Seattle lawyer with previous experience working in affordable housing and civil rights, told City Council that he has witnessed hundreds of families who have not been able to find housing because landlords would not accept Section 8 vouchers.

“I’ve seen with my own eyes,” he said, adding how “depressing” those cases could be.

A number of people who testified during the hearing said in some situations, the vouchers are all that stand between them and homelessness. These people can range from families struggling in the tough economic climate or those escaping domestic violence to the elderly or individuals living with disabilities and on a fixed income.


Others shared firsthand experiences, recounting tales of being uprooted after learning their landlords would no longer accept Section 8 vouchers.

Joe Ingram, who has lived through this, said this takes away the tenants’ choices of where they want to live.

“I want to move back to Redmond because I love Redmond,” he said.

Yezenia Hernandez, a mother of three, also shared her family’s experiences.

The Hernandez family, who live in the Archstone Apartment complex near Microsoft, had received a letter telling them they had 20 days to move because their Section 8 vouchers were no longer being accepted. A tenants’ association letter prompted the apartment complex’s management to reverse its decision, but Hernandez said she was still uncertain about her family’s future living situation since they have a limited income and a daughter with disabilities.

“How long are we safe there?” she asked. “You live sometimes day to day … it is not fair.”


Sean Martin from the Rental Housing Association of Puget Sound, was the only person who spoke in opposition.

Martin said this ordinance would force landlords to participate in a voluntary federal program that may not fit in their business models. He said Section 8 requires year-long leases while some landlord choose shorter contracts in order to have different types of floor plans available for viewing purposes.

In response Jill Richardson, a 31-year Redmond landlord supporting the ordinance, said one of the reasons for shorter leases is so landlords can control and raise rent. With Section 8, she said they wouldn’t be able to do this as quickly.

Additionally, speakers from various human services and housing organizations said landlords would still be able to conduct a full screening process to ensure prospective tenants will be reliable and responsible.


In addition to the Section 8 vote, City Council also voted unanimously to extend the city’s current moratorium on medical marijuana collective gardens to give city staff more time to formulate regulation and zoning plans. The temporary ban was originally placed in August so the city could learn how the state would address the topic.

As expected, Council approved a contract with American Traffic Solutions to continue using two speed cameras at Albert Einstein Elementary School through the end of the school year. In the meantime, police and city engineers are working on a long-range traffic safety program, which may include more speed cameras.

Council also accepted a $4.4 million loan from the Washington State Department of Ecology to go toward a new downtown $9.2 million water quality facility. The Redmond Way water quality facility is proposed to be located at 15640 Redmond Way and is planned for construction in 2013. This facility will provide stormwater treatment for the area collected by the downtown stormwater trunk that is currently under construction.