Lexington City Council Considers Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Amidst Housing Voucher Concerns

LEXINGTON, Ky. – October 11, 2023
 
The Urban County Council of Lexington is considering a new ordinance to address increasing rent prices and a lack of housing options. The proposed ordinance, presented on Tuesday, seeks to prohibit discrimination against tenants based on their source of income. The move comes in light of growing concerns surrounding housing vouchers, and a notable lack of acceptance from landlords.
 
As the demand for affordable housing in Lexington continues to surge, housing advocates have expressed deep concern for individuals reliant on housing vouchers. The situation has become increasingly dire, with some voucher recipients waiting more than six months without finding suitable housing. To address this pressing issue, the Social Services and Public Safety committee held a session on Tuesday to persuade more landlords to accept tenants receiving government assistance.
 
Charlie Lanter, the Commissioner of Housing Advocacy and Community Development, emphasized the critical nature of the issue by mentioning that some individuals with housing vouchers are currently homeless or residing in shelters. Lanter revealed that in the past six months, 215 vouchers were issued, and a concerning 18 percent were returned. The average wait time for individuals to secure housing using a voucher has stretched beyond 100 days.
 
City council members have voiced significant worry about the limited involvement of landlords in the Section 8 housing voucher program. Chuck Ellinger II, Lexington’s Council At-Large, inquired, “When I hear the stat about 70% no longer accepting the vouchers, I want to know why that is. How can the program be such that we might not force it on landlords but make them want to take it because they want to use the program?”
 
Austin Simms, executive director of the LFUCG Housing Authority, proposed that offering better incentives to landlords could encourage them to accept housing voucher recipients once more. He suggested, “That we give landlords an additional $1,000, 1500 dollars to try the program, to dispel all of the rumors, to give them an additional security deposit.”
 
Lanter highlighted that landlords’ reluctance to accept voucher recipients is often based on misconceptions. He commented, “There’s simply a misconception about the level of effort required to engage with the program. Research has shown no connection between individuals receiving rental assistance and an increased likelihood of property damage or higher rates of criminal activity.” Most of the people who get these are working. They’re only just paying a portion of their rent because the job they have doesn’t pay enough to rent at a fair market price.”
 
Other council members echoed their concerns at Tuesday’s committee meeting. Shayla Lynch, Council Member of Lexington’s District 2, emphasized how landlord misconceptions adversely affect those in need of housing. She shared a personal anecdote, saying, “I am reminded of a client I helped many years ago who was a newly divorced single mom of two beautiful daughters. She struggled to find a rental home because many landlords did not want to accept the child support and alimony income that she was receiving.”
 
Dave Sevigny, Council Member of Lexington’s 10th district, raised the issue of redlining, as Section 8 housing is typically located in less affluent parts of the city. He revealed, “537 out of 557 were not taking vouchers.”
 
The matter concerning housing vouchers will undergo further examination at a public hearing set for Thursday, November 14th. Lexington’s Urban County Council remains committed to finding viable solutions to ensure affordable housing options for all its residents.
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