Ben Toma, Representative, Files Complaint Against Unconstitutional Fair Housing Code Amendment
Ben Toma (R-Peoria), the incoming speaker of the Arizona House. A grievance with the City of Tucson (COT) for allegedly unconstitutionally amending its fair housing code.
“The adopted ordinance is unconstitutional under both state and federal law. Simply put, Arizona’s 91 cities and towns are subject to its laws, regardless of the motivation.
Toma claimed that we hold our citizens to the same standards as our local governments.
Toma reported COT to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and requested that they investigate the situation. Additionally, Toma requested that the AGO begin a specific action proceeding in the Arizona Supreme Court as permitted by Arizona law and, if necessary, withhold state funds from COT.
Speaker-Elect @RepBenToma Files 1487 Complaint After City of Tucson Forbids Consideration of Source of Income on Rental Housing Applications.
— Arizona House Republicans (@AZHouseGOP) November 17, 2022
The Arizona Sun Times requested additional comments from the AGO and COT but has yet to receive a response before publishing.
The relevant amendment includes Tucson City Council’s September-passed Ordinance No. 11959. A potential buyer’s source of income is now prohibited from considering by a home seller. Renter under Tucson City Code 17-52. Sellers are no longer permitted to make or reject a property offer. Stipulate different terms or conditions, or publish any notices, statements, advertisements, or rental-related information to persuade a potential tenant to sell or rent based on their source of income.
According to City Councilman Steve Kozachik, this amendment cannot use to compel landlords to lower rents; rather. It is intend to ensure that people cannot prevent from living where they want. Because they are receiving funds from a HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) Voucher Program (Section 8).
Toma countered that the COT’s decision to make any such amendment in the first place is unconstitutional. Arizona law already prohibits discriminating against a home buyer or seller based on race, religion, or sex. However, before January 1, 1995, significant cities within the states permitted to enact their fair housing laws. Provided that they were “substantially equivalent” to those found in federal and state law. Toma claimed that the existence breaks the conditions of this amendment.
Toma added that this amendment’s logistical issues are secondary to its other issues. Landlord participation in contracts involving the Section 8 program is entirely voluntary, and this new amendment does not compel landlord participation in any such agreements. Toma countered that it might still force them to do so.
I have worked closely with all three of these leaders. They have great work ethics, high moral character and exemplify a collaborative leadership style. Congratulations and a job well done House members https://t.co/K6Vo11IFGf
— Dr. Regina Cobb (@recobbforazrep) November 15, 2022
According to Toma, property owners must agree to a rigorous and intrusive regime of inspections and regulatory requirements to enter into a Section 8 agreement with a local public housing agency. “The Ordinance is irreconcilable with controlling federal law and, by extension, with Article II, Section 3 of the Arizona Constitution” is how one legal scholar described the attempt to turn an explicitly voluntary federal program into a local mandate.
Toma also expressed worries that this amendment might make it impossible for landlords to serve eviction notices on tenants who are eligible for rental assistance. According to him, doing so would go against state law and lessors’ rights.
Toma insisted that while Tucson needs to address the housing crisis, this amendment is not the appropriate course of action.