by Liam Niemeyer, Kentucky Lantern
January 24, 2024
A bill that would prevent Kentucky cities from requiring landlords to accept low-income housing vouchers, something housing advocates say doesn’t happen, passed the state Senate Wednesday by a near party line vote.
The debate on Senate Bill 25 echoed much of what was heard in the House the day before as a similar bill won approval from the lower chamber.
The Senate approved the bill, sponsored by Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, 30-6.
West speaking on the Senate floor said his bill is a “preemptive measure” that protects the “status quo” of landlords not being required to accept a low-income housing voucher, commonly known as a Section 8 voucher.
“We do have a housing crisis in the state of Kentucky, and that needs to be addressed for sure,” West said. “All this does is keep the status quo. As long as the city or county does not pass an ordinance that conflicts with these items — they’re fine.”
Some housing advocates and Democratic lawmakers have opposed SB 25 and the similar bill, House Bill 18, out of concerns that the legislattion would override a Louisville ordinance that bans landlords from discriminating against tenants based on their source of income for rent, including Section 8 vouchers. A Lexington city committee approved Tuesday such an ordinance to be considered by the full Urban County Council.
Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong, D-Louisville, on the Senate floor repeated her previous concerns about the bill, saying that no city in Kentucky, along with Louisville, is mandating landlords to take low-income housing vouchers.
“There was no longer a way for a landlord to post an ad saying ‘no Section 8 need to apply.’ It gave people dignity, and it gave people housing,” Armstrong said, speaking about Louisville’s ordinance. “This bill that we are considering today would undo those important protections.”
Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said he considered low-income housing vouchers to be “transfer payments” from the government not a source of income from renters but rather financial aid that a landlord can accept voluntarily or not.
“It’s a long accepted and supported program here in America, but when you start forcing people to do it, it’s wrong,” Thayer said.
Senate President Robert Stivers said he hasn’t talked with House leadership about what finalized legislation might come between HB 18 and SB 25.
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