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Bill conflicting with Louisville anti-housing discrimination law passes Ky. House

Rep. Rachel Roberts, a Republican from District 73, addresses the Kentucky House of Representatives.
LRC Public Information
Rep. Ryan Dotson, a Republican from Winchester, addresses the Kentucky House of Representatives.

Kentucky local governments could no longer stop landlords from discriminating against potential tenants who receive federal housing assistance under a bill that has passed the state House.

The Republican measure that strips control from local governments to prevent some housing discrimination passed after heated debate Tuesday.

Sponsored by Republican Rep. Ryan Dotson from Winchester, House Bill 18 would almost certainly conflict with a Louisville city ordinance that says landlords cannot deny housing to a person solely because they receive housing vouchers.

Doston said he does not believe this is an issue of local control, but of property rights.

“Property ownership is a basic tenet of capitalism that we should protect. No one should be forced to do business with the government,” Dotson said.

The bill passed the Kentucky state House 74 to 20, on straight-party lines, and now moves to the Senate for consideration.

A related bill is awaiting a vote in the state Senate. Senate Bill 25 contains similar provisions but appears smaller in scope.

While HB18 bans the anti-discrimination laws surrounding all federal housing programs — including those assisting veterans and people with disabilities — SB 25 bans local ordinances that require a landlord to participate in specifically Section 8 housing programs.

There are also still questions about whether SB25 would conflict with Louisville’s ordinance, which doesn’t “require” landlords to participate in Section 8 — it merely prohibits them using it as the criteria for denying a tenant.

Dotson said he was a landlord with several properties including low-income housing. He said that while he never had issues with accepting government assistance checks, he believes landlords should have the right to refuse them.

Democrats from the state’s two largest cities argued the measure would hurt efforts to reduce homelessness. Lexington’s Metro Council recently considered taking up a measure similar to Louisville’s.

Opponents said Dotson implied that cities were forcing landlords to take on Section 8 tenants, rather than merely requiring they not discriminate against people based on where they get their income.

“Will we stand for the 4,000 homeless Kentuckians who every day cannot find affordable housing? Will we make an opportunity for them to rejoin society and not be on the fringe?” Democratic Rep. Lindsey Burke from Lexington said.

Louisville Democratic Rep. Josie Raymond said she considers the bill to be a slippery slope. She pointed to the fact that Louisville’s ordinance was passed unanimously with bipartisan support, although two members chose not to vote.

Raymond said that landlords still have full autonomy under the city’s law; but the ordinance also says they can't discriminate based on source of income, just as they cannot discriminate based on race or familial status.

“While my city and others are being told to solve homelessness, we're not being given the resources we need to do it by the General Assembly,” Raymond said.

Dotson said anti-discrimination laws aren’t a viable solution to the housing crisis. He instead blames planning and zoning rules for the lack of affordable housing.

“City governments can sometimes cause a problem, and then they want to put the burden on individual taxpayers or landlords,” Dotson said.

The House bill also prohibits local governments from requiring property owners to pay for “emergency response fees” to their rented properties, including those over which the owner “has no control.”

Dotson said emergencies that are of ambiguous origin, like a gas leak or wiring problem, would still be the responsibility of the landlord. Those fees include fire departments, ambulances, police, and any of the labor or materials needed to provide an emergency response.

Sylvia is the Capitol reporter for Kentucky Public Radio, a collaboration including Louisville Public Media, WEKU-Richmond, WKU Public Radio and WKMS-Murray. Email her at sgoodman@lpm.org.