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Ky. bill to undermine housing discrimination bans headed to governor's desk

A "for rent" sign at a Highlands-Douglass apartment building.
Jacob Munoz
The Kentucky General Assembly has passed legislation that would nullify Louisville's source-of-income discrimination ban.

Legislation that would allow landlords to discriminate against potential tenants who receive federal housing assistance has officially passed the General Assembly and now moves to the governor’s desk.

The bill would strip control from local governments to prevent discrimination against people who receive federal housing assistance.

It’s designed to target anti-discrimination ordinances in Louisville and Lexington. Bill sponsor Republican Rep. Ryan Dotson from Winchester said it’s meant to allow property owners to fully vet their tenants.

“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 when the bill first passed the House.

The Louisville ordinance the bill would negate does not require landlords to accept people who receive federal assistance. It merely prevents them from rejecting an applicant based solely on their source of income. The bill also targets a similar Lexington ordinance that passed earlier this month. The ordinance is scheduled to take effect March 1.

The Senate’s only addition to the bill, which was approved by the House, would specifically prohibit local ordinances from running counter to the legislation. House Bill 18 applies to people who receive Section 8 vouchers as well as veterans or people with disabilities who may receive assistance.

In the Tuesday vote, the bill passed on straight party lines, 75-20. It now moves to the desk of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear to either sign or veto the bill. If he does veto it, the Republican-controlled legislature could easily override the veto with a constitutional majority.

“What is before us today would still revoke what Louisville Metro and their ordinances have done within their own jurisdiction — what they felt was right for them,” said Louisville Democratic Rep. Rachel Roarx in opposition to the bill.

The Senate initially passed a similar version of the bill that would only apply to Section 8 aid recipients, but both chambers eventually adopted the more expansive version.

Housing advocates say the legislation could make it harder to find housing for people who receive federal assistance due to a number of harmful stereotypes that lead some landlords to place blanket bans, especially against Section 8 recipients.

Low-income residents can wait years just to receive a voucher, and when they finally get one, they face a deadline to find a quality apartment that will pass an inspection.

State government and politics reporting is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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

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