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House Democrats Call For “Housing Justice Bills”

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Some Michigan Democrats want to expand access to affordable housing across the state.

New bills introduced 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. Another would amend the state landlord and tenant act in a similar way.

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

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for 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.
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