Senate committee passes bill on local Section 8 housing rules

Legislative Research Commission

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 17, 2024) — The Senate State and Local Government Committee voted 8-1 Wednesday to advance a measure that would prohibit local governments from requiring landlords to participate in a Section 8 housing program.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, said Senate Bill 25 also states that no city ordinance will conflict with existing landlord-tenant state laws. He described the bill as being two bills in one.

“We want to protect property owners. We want to protect landlords and make sure… the value of their property is maintained, and they are able to offer housing to their tenants in a reasonable fashion,” he said.

West, a real estate attorney, said that if a landlord accepts Section 8 vouchers, they must also accept all of the Section 8 requirements, including the price that can be charged for renting properties. He also said Section 8 requirements could mean extensive costs to landlords.

The bill states “that no city or county government can mandate that a landlord accept Section 8,” he said. “There are some moves afoot in different cities to do that, and in my opinion, that’s very dangerous for property, for banks, for landlords and really for housing in general.” 

Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong, D-Louisville, voted against the bill, arguing that it would prevent officials in Louisville from enforcing a source of income discrimination law, which was passed there with bipartisan support in 2020. 

“I didn’t hear any opposition from groups about the law. In fact, a lot of property owners in Louisville were really focused on making sure that landlords understood how to comply,” she said. 

West said the Louisville ordinance may not conflict with the proposed legislation, but added that a landlord can’t be mandated to accept a potential tenant with Section 8. He said SB 25 would help make sure that cities know state law overrides local law when they conflict.

Sen. Michael J. Nemes, R-Shepherdsville, who voted in favor of the bill, said most people don’t understand Section 8, and many landlords like it because it is guaranteed income.

“They think Section 8 is a building that accepts tenants that are on Section 8. That is not true,” he said. “Section 8 is an assistance to tenants. When a Section 8 person comes to a landlord, they ask if they will accept Section 8. That means the landlord accepts that program, which has certain things that you have to abide by.”

Several people spoke against the measure during the meeting’s public comment period Wednesday. 

Bryanna Carroll, director of public affairs for the Kentucky League of Cities, said the organization’s board has voted to oppose the legislation over concerns that it would erode the local decision-making process.

One critic, Lexington Councilmember Shayla D. Lynch, said the legislation would exasperate the housing crisis in Lexington and that some landlords will evict tenants. 

West said it’s important for the legislature to recognize that the housing crisis is a real challenge. 

However, he argued that the two main causes are inflation and planning and zoning laws that prevent the building of new apartments and houses. 

West added that he would anticipate litigation if cities force property owners to accept Section 8.

“If you force a property owner to accept Section 8, I would say that is unconstitutional,” he said. “So yes, some of this is preemptive, but as legislators, we swore an oath to uphold the United States Constitution.” 

SB 25 now heads to the full Senate for consideration. 

Photo: Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, testifies on Senate Bill 25, a measure that would prohibit local governments from requiring landlords to participate in a Section 8 housing program. (LRC PIO)