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Kaine Introduces Bill to Protect Veterans and Low-Income Families from Housing Discrimination

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a former fair housing attorney, reintroduced the Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2022 to protect veterans and low-income families from housing discrimination. Current law allows landlords to deny housing to individuals based on source of income, and many veterans and low-income families have reported discrimination when using vouchers to pay their rent. The Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2022 would expand protections under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to include banning discrimination based on source of income, giving more individuals and families access to affordable housing and a shot at economic mobility. When Kaine first introduced this legislation in 2018, landlords in Virginia could deny housing based on how individuals pay rent. Virginia has since enacted legislation in July 2020 to prohibit discrimination based on source of income, and Kaine wants to expand that progress nationwide. The bill is cosponsored by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).

“As a former fair housing attorney, I’ve witnessed how affordable housing can provide stability and open the door to opportunity—but I’ve also seen how housing discrimination unjustly locks people out of that opportunity,” said Senator Kaine. “This legislation would build on the success we’ve seen in Virginia by protecting veterans and low-income families across the country from discrimination and helping more Americans access housing.”

“No one in our country should face housing discrimination. But for many Americans who use housing vouchers – including veterans and low-income families – it’s perfectly legal for a landlord to reject them, based on this factor alone,” said Senator Van Hollen. “This legislation will end this discriminatory practice and ensure that Americans are not unfairly denied affordable housing by landlords.”

"With Coloradans in the middle of a housing crisis, no family should face additional hurdles while searching for a home," said Senator Bennet. "But right now, military servicemembers, veterans, and low-income families can be denied housing based on how they pay their rent. Our legislation will help end this harmful discrimination and protect families looking for a place to live."

“Landlords should not be able to deny any American access to affordable housing based on how they legally pay their rent,” said Senator Klobuchar. “By prohibiting landlords from discriminating against families who utilize housing vouchers from the federal government, this legislation will enable more veterans and low-income Americans to enjoy the safety and stability that affordable housing provides.” 

The federal government provides vouchers to help 2.3 million veterans and low-income households live in decent, stable private market housing. Landlords, however, can reject these vouchers in states and cities where there are no source of income protections. Fair housing complaints have remained steady, with nearly 29,000 complaints in 2020. People of color, particularly Black women, are disproportionately impacted and more likely than any other group to be evicted or denied housing.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. The Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2022 would add source of income and veteran status to the list of protected classes. It would prohibit landlords from denying housing to individuals who use Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8), HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers, benefits received through Social Security, income received by a court order, payment from a trust or guardian, or any other lawful source of income.

Companion legislation was introduced by Congressman Scott Peters in the House of Representatives.

Kaine began his career as a lawyer specializing in the representation of people who had been denied housing due to their race, disability, or family status. In 1998, Kaine helped win one of the largest civil rights jury verdicts ever in a case involving discrimination against minority neighborhoods by an insurance company.

The bill is supported by: A Way Home America, American Bar Association, Autistic Self Advocacy Center, Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network, Catholic Charities, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Coalition on Human Needs, Community Change Action, Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, Council of State Community Development Agencies, The Corporation for Supportive Housing, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Enterprise Community Partners, Funders Together to End Homelessness, Grounded Solutions Network, Hispanic Federation, Housing Opportunities Made Equal Virginia, Inc., LeadingAge, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Low-Income Investment Fund, National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations, National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Association for County Community and Economic Development, National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, National Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies, National CAPACD, National Center for Housing & Child Welfare, National Coalition for the Homeless, National Community Action Partnership, National Community Development Association, National Consumer Law Center, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, National Housing Law Project, National Housing Resource Center, National Housing Trust, National Low Income Housing Coalition, National NeighborWorks Association, National Women's Law Center, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Opportunity Starts at Home campaign, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Poverty & Race Research Action Council, Prosperity Now, Public Housing Authorities Directors Association, Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future, StriveTogether, Technical Assistance Collaborative, The Kelsey, True Colors United, Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals, Virginia Housing Alliance, Virginia Poverty Law Center, and Up for Growth Action.

“I applaud Senator Kaine and Representative Peters for introducing this important legislation to help combat housing discrimination, segregation, and inequality,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel. “Where you live has an enormous impact on the opportunities we have in life – everything from educational attainment, to lifetime earnings, better health, and life expectancy. For too long, discrimination has prevented low-income people from living in neighborhoods of their choice – including communities with jobs that pay decent wages, good schools, healthcare, and transportation – simply because they rely on federal housing benefits to make ends meet. This legislation is an important step towards righting this wrong.”

“All too often, source of income discrimination prevents low income families from accessing neighborhoods of their choosing, which perpetuates economic and racial segregation and seriously harms upward mobility for young children,” said Mike Koprowski, National Director of the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign.  “Imagine going to a landlord and inquiring: ‘I’d like to live here. It would be a better life for my family.  I can afford the asked rent with my voucher. You have units available. It’s a stable lawful source of income, and I meet all the other qualifications of tenancy.’  And you are simply told ‘no’ just because you have a voucher.  It’s not right, and I commend Senator Kaine and Representative Peters for proposing this important legislation.”

“The American dream is one in which all have access to a safe place to call home—regardless of gender, income level, race, or disability. We know that stable, affordable housing is associated with improved physical and mental health, increased food security, and better educational opportunities. That's why the Fair Housing Improvement Act is so vital, because by helping the unhoused among us, it will make all of us stronger, healthier, and more secure," said Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Church World Service. "We applaud Senator Kaine and Representative Peters for reintroducing this legislation and his efforts to make this type of security a reality for all. We urge Congress to join with him and provide a more certain future for the thousands of Americans searching for hope.”

"We commend Senator Kaine and Representative Peters for introducing legislation that will go a long way in addressing discrimination in housing, which has existed for far too long in this country," said Luis Guardia, president of the Food Research & Action Center. "Anti-hunger advocates know well the balancing act many families with low-incomes face in robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul: paying for food or paying for a roof over their head. No one should be forced to choose between these basic needs."

“For far too long, women—especially Black women—have struggled financially, mentally, and physically as a result of systemic barriers preventing them from secure, accessible, and affordable housing,” said Melissa Boteach, Vice President of Income Security and Child Care/Early Learning at the National Women’s Law Center. “Even when women can access rental assistance, they still face opposition from landlords who refuse to accept federal housing vouchers. We applaud Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) for introducing the Fair Housing Improvement Act, which creates a federal ban on source of income discrimination for renters. If enacted, this legislation would afford more women the opportunity to secure stable housing, which, in turn, will directly contribute to better health, education, and financial outcomes.”

"We support this legislation to protect renters from housing discrimination. Too often, landlords refuse to rent to low-income families using vouchers based on income and veterans. People who stepped up to serve their country as well as people using vouchers must be protected from discrimination,” stated Liz Seaton, Policy Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund. “Housing vouchers are a legal, important and valuable source of income. When landlords deny people who are veterans or voucher holders homes, it may prevent financial opportunities, access to education, and a good quality of life. The worst impacts, of course, fall on women, people of color, those living with disabilities, LGBTQ people and families, and more."

The Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals (VAREP) said, “Ending discrimination of all types against our veterans and active-duty servicemembers is a cornerstone mission of both Senator Kaine and VAREP. The passage of this bill will, once and for all, permanently prohibit housing discrimination based on source of income, veteran status or military status.”

Full text of the bill is available here.