The Mobile City Council voted unanimously today to amend its housing discrimination ordinance to add several classes not before protected in the law.
Councilman Fred Richardson endorsed the move, to add age, military status, gender identity or expression, family status and sexual orientation as protected classes under the law. The amended ordinance now means a landlord, or real estate agent can’t discriminate based on these factors, or other factors, including race, sex, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, or ethnicity.
Richardson said he wanted to have age added as a protected class to the ordinance from the 1980s after hearing complaints from residents of a District 1 apartment complex. He said, in one example, an elderly woman was locked out of her apartment overnight.
“We found cases where people were being mistreated,” Richardson said. “This ordinance would allow the Center for Fair Housing to sue landlords who don’t follow it.”
Center for Fair Housing Executive Director Teresa Bettis said they pushed for military status to be added after fielding several complaints about landlords not allowing veterans to keep service, or therapy animals in certain apartments.
“We’re thankful to the City Council and Councilman Fred Richardson for standing behind us on this,” Bettis said.
While Vickery Jones, the center’s enforcement officer, said the ordinance included the protected classes under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in many cases Mobile has complaints that don’t fall under those classes. Jones said last week many cities have already taken the steps to amend ordinance to add protected classes.
In other business, Mayor Sandy Stimpson announced that his administration would soon be presenting to council a plan to study the city’s compensation. Stimpson said it had been almost 10 years since a compensation study had been done. The discussion on compensation began after Councilman C.J. Small mentioned a media report referencing Mobile as having among the lowest pay for police officers in the country.
Councilman John Williams asked the administration for complete information on employee compensation and Councilman Joel Daves said a study should include a comparison of total compensation.
The council also approved rezoning of property at 139 East Drive was rezoned to allow for an apartment complex. The property was initially zoned for multi-family residential, but was rezoned under the same classification to change conditions, which would add more parking space, Councilwoman Bess Rich said.
Property at 2825 Spring Hill Ave. was rezoned from residential to business to allow a “retailer” at the site of the old Crichton School, Richardson said. He added that the same retailer would be adding a venue on Mobile Street.
Richardson also asked the Stimpson administration to look at placing lights on top of the Civic Center dome to match those on GulfQuest building and at other buildings downtown. He said lights on the “largest dome in Mobile” would really announce to visitors and passersby on Interstate 10 they had reached the city.
“We need a ‘no doubt’ moment,” he said. “You’d have to be Ray Charles not to know you’re in the city of Mobile.”
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