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State House Democrats introduce “housing justice" bills

Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
Capitol Building, Lansing, MI

Some Democratic state lawmakers want to expand access to affordable housing across the state.

New bills introduced on Tuesday would prevent landlords from excluding certain sources of income when determining if the potential tenant qualifies for housing. Those income sources include Section 8 vouchers, disability income, and veterans’ assistance. 

“It’s frankly an injustice that landlords are further creating this stigma that really shouldn’t exist for people that are on public assistance,” said bill sponsor Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor). “Just because you have a Section 8 voucher doesn’t mean that you won’t be a good tenant.”

Rabhi said at a press conference that the unwillingness of some landlords to accept public assistance as a form of income is contributing to homelessness in the state.

Lisa Chapman of the Community Housing Network echoed the concern. She said many landlords across the state refuse to rent to people with these types of income.

“It’s just very difficult to find landlords that will accept it,” Chapman said. “Their perception is that it’s more paperwork, but it’s really not.”

In order to get the bills to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s desk, the Democratic bill sponsors will need Republicans on board. Republicans are the majority in the state House and Senate.

Bill sponsor, Representative Robert Wittenberg (D-Huntington Woods), said making sure everyone has a place to live is a bipartisan issue.

“Especially now with the weather turning, I would say it probably has already turned. And so we are going to continue working to try to have these conversations with our colleagues across the aisle,” he said.

One bill would amend the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act to ban source-of-income discrimination for housing. 

A spokeswoman for Whitmer said the office will not weigh in on the bills at this time because the governor is on an overseas trip to strengthen Michigan’s relationship with Israel.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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