Austin Apartment Association Lawsuit Says Austin's Source of Income Ordinance Violates State and Federal Law

Dec 12, 2014, 16:26 ET from Austin Apartment Association

AUSTIN, Texas, Dec. 12, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The Austin Apartment Association (AAA) has filed suit in Travis County District Court asking for an injunction to block implementation of Austin's newly passed Source of Income (SOI) Ordinance.  The new law would require many property owners to participate in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8).

"There are sound business reasons why more property owners do not participate in Section 8 and they have nothing to do with the potential residents. The program is historically troubled, bureaucratic and underfunded," said AAA President Robbie Robinson, CAM, CAPS, ARM. "Every property owner wants good residents; what we don't want is a forced partnership with a governmental agency that significantly impacts business and operations."

The lawsuit states that the ordinance is unenforceable because "it is preempted by state law, is preempted by federal law and violates the Texas and U.S. constitutions."  The suit notes that none of the other protections under state or federal fair housing laws require property owners to contract with a federal agency or participate in a federal housing program or provide special terms that are not contracted for in the market generally.

"The city will be forcing property owners to agree to a one-sided contract with HUD, which includes approximately 400 pages of rules and regulations. The lease contract with HUD goes far beyond the lease that the vast majority of renters sign in Austin," Robinson said.  "Our attorneys have told us the ordinance is in conflict with state and federal law. This leaves us with no choice but to stand up for the rights of property owners who should not be forced to participate in what is, and has always been, a voluntary federal program."

According to AAA's lawsuit, the ordinance "unreasonably interferes with private property rights" and requires the property owner to "contract with the federal government, become subject to federal laws and regulations to which the owner would not otherwise be subject, and mandates onerous lease terms and burdensome inspections, maintenance, reporting and other compliance regulations."

"The City of Austin has placed the entire cost and administrative burden of implementing this ordinance on property owners with absolutely no consideration for the negative impact it will have," said Robinson. "We asked the city to work with our members to develop a voluntary program that is constitutional and would help expand housing choice. The city has instead taken this negative approach that will result in tax dollars wasted on litigation."

"Austin has an opportunity to do better, and be a model city," said Robinson. "We should explore voluntary programs that offer incentives to expand housing choice and options."

"We want to work with the Housing Authority of the City of Austin and the city to develop a program that will achieve the goal of more housing opportunities while addressing the hurdles that have hampered the Section 8 program," Robinson said. "We hope the city will join forces with us to achieve those goals. The SOI ordinance, unfortunately, will not."

SOURCE Austin Apartment Association