A Villa Medanos apartment complex displays a rent sign in Antioch. (Photo by Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group, via CalMatters)

In an effort to help remedy California’s housing affordability crisis, a law taking effect Jan. 1 bars landlords from discriminating against low-income renters with Section 8 vouchers.

Tenants who qualify for the Section 8 program pay 30 percent of their income toward rent, and the federal government pays the rest.

Getting a voucher is not easy. Applicants can wait for years to qualify for the program, and once they receive a voucher, they typically have 60 days to find a place before their voucher expires. A major challenge: finding a landlord willing to accept the subsidy.

Landlords have long been legally prohibited from discriminating against renters based on race, disability or source of income — but “no Section 8” policies were legal. The new law, authored by Los Angeles Democratic Sen. Holly Mitchell, expands the definition of source of income to include Section 8 vouchers.

Some cities had already outlawed Section 8 housing discrimination, but now the prohibition will be in place statewide.

YouTube video

Even under the new law, landlords still can reject applicants for poor credit and rental history.

It’s still unclear how effective the law will be; California cities with local bans have seen mixed results. In many cases, there’s little enforcement and “No section 8” ads still abound.

In this video, CalMatters’ economic inequality reporter Jackie Botts breaks down the new law in one minute.

Between now and the end of the year, watch as CalMatters video producer Byrhonda Lyons and the CalMatters reporting team build a video playlist that explains how various new laws will influence the lives of Californians.

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CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.