Housing Ordinance Back in Effect – For Now
5th Circuit vacates previous order that halted the ordinance
By Mary Tuma,
3:10PM, Wed. Mar. 18, 2015
The status of the city’s source of income discrimination ordinance continues to oscillate.
The measure – meant to grant low-income renters, including Section 8 voucher holders, wider housing opportunities – was put on hold when the Austin Apartment Association filed suit, arguing the ordinance unfairly forces landlords into government contracts. U.S. Judge Sam Sparks ruled against the AAA, allowing it to take effect on Feb. 27, weeks after its initially scheduled start date. However, the Association succeeded in halting the measure once again with a temporary injunction, granted by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in early March, to the dismay of affordable housing advocates. And in yet another turn, the three-judge 5th Circuit panel vacated its ruling on Tuesday with little explanation in court filings.
Fred Fuchs, defendant’s attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, said they are “ecstatic” about the 5th Circuit denial. “We are delighted and ready to move on to next stage,” Fuchs, who represents voucher holders in the case, told the Chronicle. Fuchs said the circuit court likely granted the injunction to “preserve the status quo” before delving into Sparks’ opinion and the defendant’s responses.
The AAA can appeal the ruling, but haven’t taken any action yet. In a statement, they said they are “presently evaluating our options” and remain committed to providing quality affordable housing "in a manner that does not penalize the very people whose investments are providing that housing.”
Fuchs said the longer the wait the better: “The longer this ordinance remains in effect, the more you’ll see landlords wondering ‘why did we ever fight this in the first place?’”