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Lansing state representative plans introduce bill package to support tenants

Rep. Dievendorf represents several mid-Michigan municipalities, including parts of Lansing as well as DeWitt and Grand Ledge.
Emily Dievendorf
Rep. Dievendorf represents several mid-Michigan municipalities, including parts of Lansing as well as DeWitt and Grand Ledge.

A state representative from Lansing says they plan to introduce legislation to expand rights for tenants and provide greater support to those who’ve been displaced due to unsafe living conditions.

The package of bills would strengthen protections for those living in rental properties. It includes a proposal to require that landlords provide financial assistance to renters who are kicked out of their homes due to housing code violations.

Local officials in Lansing have called for lawmakers to adopt that specific change, where hundreds of housing units have been red-tagged and deemed uninhabitable for residents. The city has sued property owners to compel them to pay for tenant accommodations. A change in state law would give municipalities more leverage in forcing landlords to support residents.

Democratic Rep. Emily Dievendorf (D-Lansing) is the vice chair of the Housing committee. They say the measure would ensure people can remain housed in the city.

"We recognize that we are struggling to the point of breakdown with aging housing stock that has reached the point of unlivability," Dievendorf said. "The ability for tenants to be financed in their relocation if the the housing stock aging is not their fault is very important."

The representative said the package contains at least 30 housing-related bills. The proposals include:

  • Giving tenants permission to make repairs on their housing units and charge property owners for the fixes
  • Requiring landlords to establish "just cause" and certain criteria in order to evict someone
  • Mandating property owners give early notice for changes in rent
  • Limiting apartment application fees

Dievendorf says increasing access to safe and affordable housing is a priority this legislative session, adding that they've also seen enthusiasm from Republicans on housing legislation.
“We are committed as legislators to making sure that we completely revamp the way that we do rental housing,” Dievendorf said.

The package also includes provisions to protect tenants from housing discrimination. One bill aims to ensure fair housing access for those previously convicted of a felony.

Dievendorf says the legislature wants to remove barriers that prevent people from finding shelter.

“So many of our policies have to do with trying to keep people where they are or ensure that people can get into housing and past obstacles that are arbitrary and should not get in the way of them being able to have access to basic needs,” they said.

The package of bills is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.

Dievendorf said the goal is to send housing legislation to the governor's desk by the end of the summer.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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