The Fight Against Housing Income Discrimination: A Personal Perspective

As I anxiously await the Lexington Council’s second reading of Ord. 0120-24, which would ban source of income discrimination in housing, I am filled with mixed feelings. As an impacted person dealing with housing stabilization issues, I wonder how House Bill 18, which our state representatives moved forward in Frankfort, will affect families like mine. This bill preempts local ordinances that prevent housing income discrimination, a cause many tenants and housing advocates, including myself, have fought for over a year in our community and in front of our council. We have shared stories of enduring discrimination based on how we rent our housing and argued that we deserve safe housing like any other tenant in this city.

I ponder whether those in Frankfort passing these bills have themselves, or a loved one, ever been in a situation where their housing depended on a landlord who judges them by their appearance or how they rent their housing. As I listened to Councilwoman Baxter recite the same negative, stereotypical agenda that perpetuates redlining and discriminatory practices in our city, I understand how the housing crisis has worsened here.

I often wonder if she or those in Frankfort are informed about the factual information regarding HUD-issued vouchers or if they continue to perpetuate the same stereotypes, implicit biases, and racist belief systems that exist when it comes to voucher holders. Do they realize that this discriminatory thought pattern prevents veterans who served their country and are voucher holders from finding safe, affordable housing? Homeless individuals and those suffering from mental health issues are also recipients of federally funded housing vouchers. Domestic violence survivors are voucher holders as well.

Another aspect of this issue is home ownership. Councilman Dave Sevigny said it best: “all people deserve the opportunity to own their own home and create generational wealth.” Despite what’s happening in Frankfort, it matters that twelve members of our council see the need for equity and inclusiveness when it comes to tenants renting housing. People should be judged on their own merit and not by stereotypes used to prevent Lexington from growing and becoming diverse.

As Councilwoman Lynch stated, all deserve the opportunity to live where they want to live in this city and have safe, affordable, quality housing. The only way to stop modern-day redlining is to elect individuals who believe in fairness and equity and remove those who stand in the way of progress and change in the right direction for all Lexingtonians.

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Davita Gatewood is a housing advocate in Lexington, Kentucky.