Landlords, tenants and anyone who’s interested can learn more about the City of Lawrence’s new protections for people using housing vouchers during three upcoming meetings.
The Lawrence City Commission on Feb. 14 voted to approve an ordinance change that bars landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants and denying them housing based solely on their source of income.
Landlords will also be prohibited from discriminating based on people’s immigration status, and against people who are survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and/or stalking.
Among other things, the change is intended to help people who have received Housing Choice Vouchers, Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers and more access housing.
In recent years, the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority has seen a drop in the number of landlords willing to accept stipends. That’s made it more difficult for advocates with LDCHA, the Lawrence Community Shelter and elsewhere to help people find housing.
Local advocates and city officials believe the ordinance change will immediately open doors for people seeking housing, including some of the most vulnerable people in the community. Shannon Oury, executive director of LDCHA, has said that about two-thirds of LDCHA’s housing vouchers are for people who are elderly or disabled. The other third of program participants must either be working or in school, she has said.
“Landlords can still use screening requirements including reviewing credit and rental history, reviewing sufficiency of funds, and administering a background check, so long as all prospective tenants are treated in the same manner,” according to the city’s website. “Receiving financial assistance should not automatically disqualify someone from renting.”
The ordinance change goes into effect on June 1.
Those who are interested can ask questions of representatives of the city, LDCHA and more during these three upcoming meetings:
- 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 18 in the Lawrence Public Library Auditorium
- 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 9 in the Bly Room at Holcom Park Recreation Center
- 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 24 in the Legacy Room at Sports Pavilion Lawrence
The ordinance is one of many measures the city is taking or planning to address the local housing and homelessness crises. The draft Housing and Homelessness 5-Year Strategic Plan includes many more.
The city has more information and answers to frequently asked questions on its website at lawrenceks.org/attorney/soi. That page also includes a link to a complaint form so people can report discrimination.
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