County of Marin - News Releases - Fair Housing Ordinance

For Immediate Release
March 21, 2017

Board Approves Enhancement to Fair Housing Law

Source-of-income protection added for renters in unincorporated areas

San Rafael, CA – The Marin County Board of Supervisors has taken a step to improve a 2016 ordinance adopted to establish source-of-income protections for renters and increase affordable housing options in Marin, one of the most expensive places to live in the United States.

An exterior photo of an apartment complex in Southern Marin.Source-of-income protections have been added for renters to help increase affordable housing options in unincorporated parts of Marin.
On March 21, the Board held a public hearing and voted to amend Chapter 5.53 of the Marin County Code to remove an exception that exempted owner-occupied structures from the fair housing ordinance. The fair housing ordinance was adopted on November 8, 2016, and the Board requested staff to bring back an amendment to remove the exception.

“The Board was prescient in removing this exemption to expand housing choice and insure that all housing providers in the county were covered equally under the ordinance,” said Leelee Thomas, Planning Manager for the Community Development Agency’s housing program.

The ordinance amendment, which applies to unincorporated parts of the County, removes limitations in the provision of rental housing for families and military veterans who receive third-party rental assistance. The source-of-income protection precludes landlords from advertising or stating a preference for certain sources of income, from charging a higher deposit based on a person’s source of income, and from treating a person differently based on their source of income. The elimination of the exception prohibits discriminatory practices and simplifies the process for understanding and determining ordinance applicability.  

Following a series of housing affordability workshops in late 2015, the Board recognized how few multifamily housing developments were being proposed and built in Marin. Those complexes typically include some units designed for low-income families and help to alleviate the affordable housing crunch. With Marin’s heavy emphasis on single-family detached homes, townhomes and condominiums, the Board endorsed a plan to encourage the development of accessory dwelling units (commonly called second units), junior accessory dwelling units, and room rentals as a strategy of addressing the ongoing crisis.

However, those units would be exempt from the fair housing ordinance unless the exemption was eliminated. The Board was inspired to act with Tuesday’s code amendment to make progress on the County’s fair housing goals. Landlords may still screen tenants for references, rental history, or even credit history, so long as selection criteria are applied equally to all applicants.

Since July 2016, the County has collaborated with the Marin Housing Authority in an innovative Landlord Partnership Program that offers incentives to landlords that rent to participants of the federal government’s Housing Choice (“Section 8”) Voucher program. With more than $400,000 allocated to incentives such as loss mitigation pool and vacancy loss coverage, the program has experienced great success in recruiting and maintaining rewarding relationships with landlords.

In addition to the source-of-income protection, the County prohibits unfair housing practices in the rental, sale, or financing of housing because of a person's race, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, gender, parental status, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, and age.

Learn more on the County’s fair housing webpage or through the Marin Housing Authority.


Leelee Thomas
Deputy Director, Housing and Federal Grants Division
Community Development Agency

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 308
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6697
Email: Leelee Thomas
Affordable Housing webpage