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Gov. Andy Beshear vetoes Kentucky housing discrimination bill

Governor Andy Beshear signing the veto for House Bill 18
Giselle Rhoden
Gov. Andy Beshear signed the veto Tuesday at Beecher Terrace, an affordable housing community in west Louisville.

Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed House Bill 18, which would allow Kentucky landlords to deny tenants who use federal housing assistance program vouchers.

On Tuesday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed a veto against House Bill 18.

The legislation would allow landlords to not participate in federal housing assistance programs. Landlords would be able to deny prospective tenants who use Section 8 and other federal housing assistance vouchers to pay rent.

HB 18 conflicts with at least two housing anti-discrimination bans enacted by local governments. In 2020, Louisville Metro Council passed a fair housing ordinance, banning housing discrimination. Lexington passed a similar ordinance earlier this year.

“We should never make it harder for someone to obtain a roof over their head, a safe place to call home,” Beshear said during a news conference Tuesday. “And that's exactly what this bill tries to do. We should be working to help people and never to harm them.”

Opponents of the bill say if enacted, it would make it more difficult for people with disabilities, low-income families, those experiencing homelessness and some veterans to access affordable housing.

Housing advocates — like Louisville Coalition for the Homeless Education Advocacy Director George Eklund — said the bill allows for discrimination based on misconceptions about federal housing assistance programs like Section 8.

“[The federal housing assistance program] does not require landlords to do more than what's already required of them,” Eklund said. “It doesn't make them have to lower their rents. It doesn't make them have to change their screening policies. They're able to do business completely the same.”

The Senate version of the bill passed last week. The Legislature’s Republican supermajority has the opportunity to override the veto.

The House majority was not surprised by the veto, Republican House Speaker David Osborne said in a statement.

“With today’s veto, [Beshear] strikes out at the right of a property owner to make a decision about how his or her property will be used,” Osborne said. “The very idea of forcing a property owner to participate in a program runs contrary to one of the most basic and fundamental rights.”

Osborne said legislators will consider a plan to override the veto.

Beshear hopes lawmakers will instead uphold the veto.

“This is a chance to do the right thing. Not to just dig in, play politics, [and] have an us versus them, but to really think about the people that we are supposed to serve,” he said.

This story was updated.

Giselle is LPM's breaking news reporter. Email Giselle at grhoden@lpm.org.

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