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Prominent senators begin bipartisan push to expand Fair Housing Act

Sens. Kaine and Hatch unveil bill to protect low-income families from housing discrimination

Two of the most notable senators on opposing sides of the political aisle are partnering to unveil a bill that would expand the Fair Housing Act to include protections for low-income families and military veterans.

This week, Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced the “Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2018,” which would prohibit housing discrimination based on source of income or veteran status.

According to Kaine and Hatch, the Fair Housing Act currently does not strictly prohibit discrimination based on those factors, meaning that landlords may deny housing opportunities to renters using housing vouchers.

But under Kaine and Hatch’s bill, the Fair Housing Act would be expanded to include source of income and veteran status among the other anti-discriminatory factors, which include race or color, religion, sex, national origin, familial status, or disability.

This isn’t the first time that Kaine has tried to expand the protected classes under the Fair Housing Act. Last year, Kaine led the effort to introduce the “Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2017,” which would have prohibited housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

The fair housing cause is one long championed by Kaine, who spent much of pre-political career as a fair housing lawyer.

“As a fair housing lawyer, I witnessed the pain experienced by families who were discriminated against as they searched for a home,” Kaine said in a statement. “Housing decisions should be made on a potential tenant’s merits, not harmful prejudices that hurt the nation’s veterans and families in-need. The Fair Housing Improvement Act will help us continue that long pursuit to protect all Americans from discrimination.”

Congress currently provides vouchers to help 2.2 million veterans and low-income households afford housing, and this bill would help ensure they actually are able to obtain the housing they need.

“Helping veterans lead lives of dignity and independence has long been among my top priorities. This bill is part and parcel to that legacy,” Hatch said in a statement.

“It will put an end to the immoral housing discrimination against veterans and others who rely on veterans’ benefits, social security disability, or other non-wage legal income,” Hatch added. “This bill will address the fact that Source of Income is not a protected class under the Federal Fair Housing Act, thereby helping to remove an unnecessary barrier facing Utah families and veterans on the path to self-reliance.”

The move comes just a few months after the Department of Housing and Urban Development launched a push to get more landlords to accept housing vouchers, citing two studies that “most” landlords do not accept housing vouchers and therefore deny affordable housing opportunities to those who need it most. 

According to Kaine’s office, the bill is supported by: 

  • American Bar Association
  • Housing Opportunities Made Equal Virginia
  • National Fair Housing Alliance
  • National Housing Law Project
  • National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials
  • National Low Income Housing Coalition
  • Paralyzed Veterans of America; Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals
  • Virginia Poverty Law Center

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