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Kaine, Peters, & Schiff Introduce Bill to Protect Veterans and Low-Income Families from Housing Discrimination

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during National Fair Housing Month, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), a former fair housing attorney, and U.S. Representatives Scott Peters (D-CA-50) and Adam Schiff (D-CA-30) reintroduced the Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2023 to protect veterans and low-income families from housing discrimination. 2.3 million veterans and low-income households use Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) to pay rent, but there are no federal protections to prevent individuals from being denied housing based on source of income. Many veterans and low-income families have reported discrimination from landlords when using vouchers to pay their rent in states and cities where there are no source of income protections. When Kaine first introduced this legislation in 2018, landlords in Virginia and California could deny housing based on how individuals pay rent. Virginia and California have since enacted legislation to prohibit discrimination based on source of income, and Kaine, Peters, and Schiff want to expand that progress nationwide. 

The Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2023 would expand protections by adding source of income and veteran status to the list of protected classes under the Fair Housing Act of 1968, giving more individuals and families access to affordable housing. 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.

“Access to safe, affordable housing provides individuals with stability and opportunity, but too often, individuals have been denied housing because of how they pay rent,” said Senator Kaine. “I’m proud to reintroduce this bill to protect veterans and low-income families from discrimination and expand access to housing for all Americans.”

“In San Diego and across the country there are too many stories of unnecessary loss and debilitating anxiety when looking for housing,” said Representative Peters. “No American should be denied housing based on the source of their income or their status as a veteran, especially as we face a historic housing crisis and unacceptable levels of veteran homelessness. Our bill would make this type of deplorable discrimination illegal.”

“We must put an end to discriminatory housing practices that target individuals who use vouchers to pay their rent — often low-income families, people of color, and veterans. I am proud to be introducing this bill with Sen. Tim Kaine and Rep. Scott Peters to ensure that veterans and vulnerable communities are protected from income-based discrimination when they apply for housing,” said Representative Schiff.

“I applaud Senator Kaine and Representative Peters for introducing this important legislation to help combat housing discrimination, segregation, and inequity,” said National Low Income Housing Coalition (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 people with low incomes from living in neighborhoods of their choice – including communities with access to jobs, high performing 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.”

In 2021, fair housing complaints increased to over 31,000, and there were more complaints of discrimination based on source of income compared to 2020. People of color, particularly Black women, are disproportionately impacted and more likely than any other group to be evicted or denied housing.

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 Senate bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Peter Welch (D-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). The House bill is cosponsored by U.S. Representative Dwight Evans (D-PA-03).

The bill is supported by A Way Home America; American Association of Service Coordinators; Catholic Charities USA; Center for Community Progress; Center for Disability Rights; Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); Children’s Defense Fund; Children’s HealthWatch; Church World Service; Coalition on Human Needs; Community Change Action; Community Solutions International; Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces; Council of Large Public Housing Authorities; Council of State Community Development Agencies; CSH; Disability Rights Advocates; Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund; Economic Policy Institute; Enterprise Community Partners; Funders Together to End Homelessness; Grounded Solutions Network; Healthcare Anchor Network; Hispanic Federation; Housing Assistance Council; Housing Justice Center; Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia; Justice in Aging; Leaders and Organizers for Tenant Empowerment (LOFTE) Network; LeadingAge; Local Initiatives Support Corporation; Low Income Investment Fund; Mobility Works; National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd; National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA); National Alliance to End Homelessness; National Association for County Community and Economic Development; National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders; National Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies; National Association of Social Workers; 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 (on behalf of its low-income consumers); National Disability Institute; National Disability Rights Network (NDRN); National Domestic Violence Hotline; National Fair Housing Alliance; National Health Care for the Homeless Council; National HIV/AIDs Housing Coalition; National Homelessness Law Center; National Housing Law Project; National Housing Resource Center; National Housing Trust; National Low Income Housing Coalition; National NeighborWorks Association; National Network to End Domestic Violence; National Resource Center on Domestic Violence; National WIC Association; National Women's Law Center; Natural Resources Defense Council; NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice; Opportunity Starts at Home campaign; Paralyzed Veterans of America; Poverty & Race Research Action Council; Prosperity Now; Public Advocacy for Kids; Shriver Center on Poverty Law; Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future; StriveTogether; Technical Assistance Collaborative; The Kelsey; Union for Reform Judaism; Up for Growth Action; Virginia Housing Alliance; Virginia Poverty Law Center; and ZERO TO THREE.

Full text of the bill is available here.