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Kansas City renters who use housing vouchers now have more protection against discrimination

A man stands at a podium with microphones. A group of people stand on the steps behind him.
Celisa Calacal
KCUR 89.3
Mayor Quinton Lucas first introduced the legislation banning source of income discrimination in November.

Advocates say the anti-discrimination law — which bans landlords from denying tenants based solely on their source of income, credit score or previous evictions — will open up more housing options for thousands of renters.

Landlords in Kansas City will no longer be able to reject a potential renter because they use a housing voucher, after the city council voted to outlaw the practice.

Under the source of income discrimination ban, passed 10-3, landlords cannot reject a tenant solely based on how they pay rent. That would include Section 8 housing vouchers and other forms of government assistance.

Councilmembers Kevin O’Neill, Nathan Willett and Wes Rogers voted against the legislation.

Kansas City now joins 85 cities, 21 counties and 17 states that have banned source of income discrimination. Research has shown the practice disproportionately impacts people of color, particularly Black renters, by making it more difficult for them to obtain housing.

The law will go into effect in six months.

Mayor Quinton Lucas championed the policy and worked with citywide tenant union KC Tenants to craft it. Councilmember Johnathan Duncan was another supporter of the ordinance.

“The best policy is informed by the lived experience of the people who are most impacted by the problem,” he said. “And that is what this policy is.”

KC Tenants leader Brandon Henderson said the ban will open more opportunities for working-class tenants to find homes in Kansas City.

“You're gonna see a lot of folks with the opportunity to live in neighborhoods that they wouldn't have previously had before,” he said. “You're gonna see less folks on the street, because there are a lot of folks who have the money to pay for a place to live, but for whatever reason are not considered or written off because of their source of income.”

Advocates say the practice of refusing tenants with a Section 8 voucher forces them to rent from “landlords of last resort.”

The legislation also prohibits landlords from rejecting tenants solely based on their credit score, previous evictions, convictions or arrests.

Nadra Barnes is a leader with KC Tenants who helped craft the legislation. She said it impacts her family and many others in Kansas City.

“Someone knows someone that's been homeless because they have bad credit,” she said. “It's very, very important for us to have this win today.”

Council members changed the law from the version it debated in December, mostly to appease landlords. Some landlords who opposed the measure claimed it would force them to accept tenants.

The legislation clarifies that landlords can deny renters as long as they consider other factors provided by the tenant and their application. Landlords are also allowed to consider evictions and alleged damages that took place within a year of the tenant’s application as grounds for rejection.

The law includes a $1 million mitigation fund for landlords to offset the costs associated with accepting vouchers. The law also creates a landlord liaison position at City Hall.

The new law would prohibit landlords from using language like “no Section 8” or “no past evictions” in their rental advertisements.

The legislation requires the city to proactively analyze rental ads for discriminatory language.

As KCUR’s Missouri politics and government reporter, it’s my job to show how government touches every aspect of our lives. I break down political jargon so people can easily understand policies and how it affects them. My work is people-forward and centered on civic engagement and democracy. I hold political leaders and public officials accountable for the decisions they make and their impact on our communities. Follow me on Twitter @celisa_mia or email me at celisa@kcur.org.
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