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Hawkeye Reporter

Friday, April 3, 2020

Senate subcommittee approves bill to help keep landlords from denying renters based on income

Local Government

By Elle Johnson | Mar 6, 2020

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A bill designed to keep cities and counties from forcing landlords not to deny renters a place to live based on their income was approved by an Iowa Senate subcommittee. 

The bill, Senate Study Bill 3178, would allow property owners to refuse renting property to renters based on their income.

Last summer, Ordinance No. 15,781 was placed in Des Moines, which made it so landlords couldn't discriminate based on income. It also said property owners couldn't discriminate based on aid from Social Security, child support, alimony, veterans' benefits or housing vouchers. These sources of income tend to help families with low income and disabled people. 

The City of Ames doesn't have a similar ordinance, but it has the Fair Housing Act. This act prevents landlords from discriminating renters based on familial status, such as race, color, origin, religion, sex or handicap. 

The Central Iowa Regional Housing Authority (CIRHA) controls the county's Section 8 housing voucher program, which funded 900 vouchers. Funding vouchers is done by the Iowa Legislature. CIRHA had planned to supply 1,000 vouchers, the the Legislature only gave enough funding for 900. 

In Story County, 276 of the vouchers are used, Vanessa Baker-Latimer, housing coordinator for Ames, said. Of the 276 vouchers, 221 are used in Ames alone. This means approximately 25% of all vouchers given out by CIRHA are used in Ames. 

The other vouchers are used in Boon, Dallas, Jasper, Madison and Marion counties. 

More problems are likely to happen if this bill isn't approved, Sen. Jeff Edler said. 

“Cities and counties should not be allowed to coerce private entities into non-consensual contract agreements,” Edler told the Iowa State Daily. 

This bill has also brought about questioning on whether or not landlords can evict current renters based on their income. 

Elder said the legislation would not allow landlords to terminate any current federal contracts based on the renter's income. 

The bill wouldn't affect Ames' Fair Housing Act, but it would make Des Moines' ordinance invalid. 

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