House Dem lawmakers push housing affordability bills

    A homeless man on the street | Pixabay

    A pair of Democratic state House lawmakers have pending legislation to address housing affordability in Michigan. 

    State Reps. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) and Robert Wittenberg (D-Huntington Woods) view addressing housing discrimination policies as one path toward achieving greater affordability. Neither bill has been formally introduced because the Legislature is on a break for the remainder of the month. 

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    Rep. Rabhi (center) speaks at a press conference Nov. 19, 2019, alongside Lisa Chapman (Community Housing Network), Shontaze Jones (housing advocate) and Rep. Robert Wittenberg | House Democrats photo

    Rabhi’s proposed bill seeks to expand protections to the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and would ban housing discrimination based on income, as well as authorize the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to investigate insistences of discrimination. 

    “It’s hard enough for many Michiganders to find affordable housing,” Rabhi said in a statement. “It shouldn’t be legal for them to be turned away because of prejudice against people who use benefits to help pay for their housing.”

    Wittenberg’s proposed bill would amend the state’s landlord and tenant act to specifically ban certain discriminatory practices. 

    “We just observed Veterans’ Day, yet more than 3,500 veterans were homeless in Michigan this year,” Wittenberg said in a statement. “This legislation would prevent landlords from discriminating against people whose income comes from veterans’ or other benefits.” 

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    In a statement announcing the bills, House Democrats cited a 2018 report from the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness which determined that those without housing grew 3.3% from 2017 to 2018, with more than 65,000 people in the state experiencing homelessness. 

    Nick Manes
    Nick Manes covers West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels. His byline also has appeared in Route Fifty and The Daily Beast. When not reporting around the state or furiously tweeting, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Krista, biking around his hometown of Grand Rapids and torturing himself rooting for the Detroit Lions.