TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) — The Baltimore County Council narrowly approved legislation backed by County Executive Johnny Olszewski that prohibits landlords from rejecting renters solely because they use federal housing vouchers.

The council voted 4-3 Monday night to approve the Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) Act, which would prohibit landlords and others from refusing to rent to someone based solely on income.

Among the sources of income landlords will no longer be able to consider are federal housing vouchers, commonly known as Section 8, as well as alimony and disability checks.

“People should have a right to apply with different sources of income and not be discriminated against just because you don’t like their source of income,” councilmember Julian Jones, Jr., said.

Olszewski’s office said the legislation would give low-income renters more flexibility when finding housing and reduce the concentration of Section 8 renters in lower-income areas.

“Discrimination in any form is wrong and we are going to continue to proceed to make sure Baltimore County is a place that is open and welcoming and inclusive,” he said Monday night.

Currently, there are more than 5,000 people using vouchers in Baltimore County, with more than 10,000 others still on a waiting list.

Opponents of the legislation said they’re concerned about the problems it could cause.

“I think it is a bad business deal,” county resident Teresa Brookland said.

Supporters, however, said it will open up more parts of the county to low-income residents.

“Trying to have a place to live if you have a voucher or low income is almost impossible around here,” county resident Barbara Waters said.

Landlords will still be able to screen tenants based on other criteria, including credit scores and criminal history. Smaller operations with fewer properties are exempt from the new law.

Olszewski said the change will not happen overnight and will happen as part of an overall process in the county.

Kelsey Kushner

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