Senate passes another bill critics say would override Lexington’s new tenant protections

Kentucky Lantern

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FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Senate approved a House bill Tuesday that critics say would override protections for tenants against discrimination based on their source of income in Kentucky’s two largest cities.

The Senate approved a similar bill of its own last month, and the debate Tuesday on House Bill 18, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Dotson, R-Winchester, echoed arguments heard earlier when the Senate approved Senate Bill 25 sponsored by Sen. Steve West, R-Paris. 

A bill targeting low-income housing vouchers passes Kentucky Senate

West on Tuesday said a committee substitute added elements of his bill to HB 18, which bans local governments from adopting or enforcing ordinances that require landlords to accept federal housing assistance vouchers from tenants for rent. 

“This is the landlord’s property,” West said, speaking in support of HB 18. “They are in the best position to know what types of federal programs to accept or not accept.”

HB 18 passed the GOP-dominated Senate 25-11. A few Republicans joined all but one Democrat in voting against the bill. HB 18 now goes back to the House, which could send the bill to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear if the chamber approves the Senate’s changes to the bill. 

Opponents fear House-approved bill would preempt a Louisville housing ordinance

Housing advocates have said no Kentucky city requires landlords to accept federal housing vouchers and that the federal low-income housing voucher program known as “Section 8” doesn’t require landlords to accept such vouchers. 

Democrats and housing advocates fear HB 18 would override local ordinances in Louisville and Lexington that prevent landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants solely based on a tenant’s source of income, including the use of federal housing vouchers. Louisville passed their source-of-income discrimination ban in 2020 in a unanimous, bipartisan fashion, and Lexington passed such a ban last week.

Sen. Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said “what’s happening in Lexington flies in the face” of upholding the Constitution and ensuring the property rights of landlords.

Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong, D-Louisville, said she considered HB 18 to be worse legislation than SB 25, which focused on Section 8 housing vouchers, because it could allow landlords to discriminate against tenants using other federal housing vouchers, such as those for veterans. She also said it was a “sad day” in part because HB 18 would preempt local ordinances against source-of-income discrimination.

“There is nothing about these vouchers that inherently threatens those property rights,” Chambers Armstrong said. “There’s nothing about these ordinances that in any way changes the rights guaranteed to property owners under the Constitution.”

West responded to Chambers Armstrong, saying that the Senate “probably quite frequently” passes laws that affect local ordinances. 

“Fixing the housing crisis by putting new requirements on the backs of landlords is not necessarily the way to go,” West said.

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