February 11, 2020

 

 

PRESS RELEASE

Senate approves bill to prohibit discrimination against
housing assistance recipients

 

STATE HOUSE — The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts to prohibit housing discrimination against those who receive government assistance to pay their rent.

The legislation (2020-S 2134) adds “lawful source of income” to the list of statuses — such as race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and marital status —  that landlords may not use as a basis for their decisions about to whom they will rent, or which units they will rent to them. The bill would not apply to owner-occupied dwellings of three units or less.

The bill defines “lawful sources of income” as income or other assistance derived from Social Security; Supplemental Security Income; any other federal, state or local general public assistance, including medical or veterans assistance; any federal, state or local housing assistance, including Section 8 Housing; child support or alimony.

The bill is meant to address the challenges and discrimination that many housing assistance recipients face finding an apartment in Rhode Island. Here, unlike in Massachusetts, Connecticut and 12 other states plus Washington, D.C., landlords are allowed to refuse to rent to those receiving housing assistance. Some advertise “No Section 8,” and advocates say that stipulation is sometimes used as a pretext for discrimination against not only the poor, but also families with children, minorities and others.

“We must make discrimination-free housing a civil right. Rhode Island should not be divided into haves and have-nots, with certain families stigmatized just because of the type of assistance they receive. That dynamic weakens and segregates our communities,” said Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence). “Needing housing assistance is not an indication that anyone is going to be a bad tenant. The vast majority of those receiving this assistance are families with children, often single mothers who are simply facing an uphill battle to afford the high cost of living in Rhode Island. There’s nothing wrong or shameful about that. Refusing to rent to them is just discrimination, and we should not sanction it as a state.”

In addition to protecting tenants from being refused housing based on their income, the bill protects them from other unlawful housing practices, including segregation.

The bill includes language that would still allow landlords to ask whether a prospective tenants is at least 18 years old, and allow them to check a prospective tenant’s income, its source and its expected duration only for the purpose of confirming the renter’s ability to pay rent.

The legislation, which has passed the Senate each year since 2017, now goes to the House, where Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence) plans to introduce a companion bill.

Cosponsors in the Senate include Sen. Frank A. Ciccone II (D-Dist. 7, Providence, North Providence), Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Tiverton, Little Compton, Newport) and Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence).

A study released last year by Southcoast Fair Housing found that although Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) recipients can afford more than one-third of listed apartments in Rhode Island, they are ultimately rejected from 93 percent. Over 9,300 households in Rhode Island rely on HCV to afford housing.

-30-

For an electronic version of this and all press releases published by the Legislative Press and Public Information Bureau, please visit our website at www.rilegislature.gov/pressrelease.

 

 

                                                                                                                 

 

A bill funding the government through December is awaiting President Trump's signature. A midnight deadline marked the start of the new federal fiscal year, meaning the government is technically not funded now. However, President Trump is expected to sign the bill so there won't be an interruption of services.        President Trump is cheering his performance at Tuesday night's presidential debate. At a rally in Minnesota, he said he enjoyed it and boasted about the ratings the event received. While he said the ratings broke records, it fell way short of the viewership during the first 2016 debate.        A suspect in a Michigan hate crime is reportedly confessing. The man targeted a home that had a Black Lives Matter sign. Police accused him of shooting up the BLM sign in the window and a rock was thrown through another. The family there also had their tires slashed.        Alabama Governor Kay Ivey is apologizing to the surviving victim of the 1963 KKK church bombing. Ivey sent a letter detailing her "sincere, heartfelt apology" that Sarah Collins Rudolph. She was 12 when the Klan bombed a Birmingham church, killing four other girls, including her sister.        The Lakers made a statement as they dominated the Heat 116-98 in Game One of the NBA Finals in Orlando. The Lakers trailed 23-10 in the first quarter before quickly closing the gap and going on a run. LeBron James scored 25 points and finished just an assist shy of a triple-double for Los Angeles.