Rabhi, Wittenberg Propose Housing Justice Bills
LANSING — State Reps. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) and Robert Wittenberg (D-Huntington Woods) announced legislation today that would prohibit housing discrimination on the basis of a person’s legal source of income. The representatives were joined at the press conference by advocates from the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness and the Community Housing Network, including tenants and landlords supporting the legislation.
Rabhi’s bill would extend the protections of the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act to ban source-of-income discrimination in housing transactions and authorize the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to investigate such discrimination. “It’s hard enough for many Michiganders to find affordable housing,” Rep. Rabhi said. “It shouldn’t be legal for them to be turned away because of prejudice against people who use benefits to help pay for their housing.
Wittenberg’s bill would amend the landlord and tenant act to specifically ban certain discriminatory practices. “We just observed Veterans’ Day, yet more than 3,500 veterans were homeless in Michigan this year,” Rep. Wittenberg said. “This legislation would prevent landlords from discriminating against people whose income comes from veterans’ or other benefits.”
“As a landlord, I know that there is a lot of apprehension out there about housing assistance and the people who rely on it,” said Vince Rush, owner of Meadowgrove Homes LLC. “But I’m not going to let someone go homeless just because I would have to do a little extra paperwork. I support this legislation because I think landlords can and should play an important role in providing affordable housing for all members of our community.”
“We waited for years to be able to get the housing assistance my family needed,” Shontaze Jones said. “But then we faced even more difficulties finding a place that would accept tenants who use assistance. I was afraid we would lose our assistance before we could get a place to live. It’s just not right, and I hope the Legislature acts quickly to protect families like mine.”
November is National Homelessness Awareness Month. More than 65,000 Michiganders experience homelessness each year and many more struggle with housing insecurity. More information can be found in the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness Annual Report: https://mihomeless.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/2018-Annual-Data-Report.pdf.