Kansas City’s mayor says the new law makes “life a little easier for renters.”
Cheers rang out from the packed auditorium on the 26th floor of City Hall Thursday when the Kansas City Council passed an ordinance providing new anti-discrimination safeguards for the half of the city’s population who live in rental housing.
The law, opposed by landlord groups and supported by social justice activists, which takes effect on August 1, would require landlords to rent to people who are willing to pay the bulk of their rent using… Federal Housing Assistance Vouchers.
The law also prohibits landlords from discriminating based on a person’s source of income, such as temporary work, or denying housing based solely on a person’s credit score or criminal history. An exception will be violent or sexual crimes, which were among the list of amendments to the law Original decree It was submitted nearly two months ago.
Most of those who clapped and cheered when the ordinance passed by a 10-3 vote were wearing the yellow T-shirts worn by members of the citywide tenant union. KC Tenants. The group wrote the original version of the ordinance last fall with the help of Pastor Mayor Quinton Lucas And his employees.
The group also worked with council members to amend the ordinance afterward The council held it in December So the language could be softened to reflect the concerns of property owners and council members who felt some parts were too strict.
Many property owners are still not satisfied with what was passed. In written testimony, they said they should have the right to refuse to participate Voluntary Federal Section 8 Voucher Programwhich they say contains a lot of red tape.
“Making it mandatory to accept vouchers is wrong,” one wrote. “It is possible that I will rent the property (and) occupy it before the voucher (missing word) completes her inspection paperwork and the leases lose a few months of rent.”
They said the government has no business requiring rent for people who do not have a regular source of income, and they suspect that it may not be enough for them to regularly pay rent on time, or for those with a history of evictions.
There are a series of concessions negotiated privately by Council members that address some, but not all, of these issues. For example, acceptance of vouchers remains mandatory.
Passage of the ordinance adds Kansas City to a long list of cities across the country that have adopted source-of-income discrimination laws.
“The effort is to make life a little easier for renters in our city,” Lucas said. “This allows source of income discrimination to be prohibited in Kansas City. This means that the way you legally earn or receive your income is in no way a barrier to your ability to find places to rent.”
Supporters say the protections are about social justice and civil rights because many of those who would benefit are disproportionately people of color, women and people with disabilities.
But in recognition of concerns raised by landlords and their supporters on the council, the final ordinance loosens some restrictions, eases proposed enforcement measures and will provide incentives for landlords to participate in the voucher program, which many small landlords resist because it’s a red flag in question.
The ordinance includes a proposal by 1st District Councilman Nathan Willett that the city adopt a $1 million pilot program similar to one in Johnson County that would encourage landlords to obtain federal vouchers.
A Lucas employee said the details had not yet been agreed upon.
Other changes to the original law, according to Mayor Riana Parks-Shaw:
It would create a landlord call center in the city’s housing department and “clarify that landlords can deny rental applications based on individual factors around criminal convictions, credit score, evictions, alleged damages, rent-to-income ratio, etc.”
Instead of preventing landlords from refusing to rent to people based on their history of evictions, the recent convictions will weigh more heavily.
“Old evictions and alleged damages can be considered holistically,” she said.
Enforcement of the law has also been relaxed, as violations could be subject to fines of up to $1,000, under the amended law.
“It prohibits the publication of the names of landlords if the landlords are subject to disciplinary proceedings or conciliation agreements,” Parks-Shaw said.
Contrary to the original language, the law passed deprives the city’s civil rights department of the authority to conduct regular audits to see if landlords are abiding by the rules.
It can only be directed to former offenders.
“My colleagues and I have worked tirelessly to create what we feel is fair legislation that will help us prohibit discrimination regarding source of income, as well as increase access to housing,” Parks-Shaw said.
Willett and two other council members from north of the Missouri River, Wes Rogers and Kevin O’Neill, voted against the measure.
Willett said he’s happy to see the changes, but he thinks the ordinance is still overblown. But he and other council members praised the collaborative process that produced the settlement.
“No one is happy, so I think we did a pretty good job,” Melissa Patterson-Hazley said.