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Local News

Bill Aims to Curb Discrimination for MI Families with Housing Vouchers

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Mark Richardson

new report found thousands of Michigan families using Housing Choice Vouchers are often left out in the cold by landlords who refuse to rent to them.

A bill in the General Assembly would protect people who need affordable housing from discrimination based on their income source.

The report from the Michigan League for Public Policy showed children forced to live in substandard housing are excluded from high-performing schools as well as safe, healthy homes and neighborhoods.

Julie Cassidy, senior policy analyst for the league and the study’s author, said discrimination often forces families away from good housing.

“Landlords that accept vouchers have units in distressed neighborhoods, areas of concentrated poverty,” Cassidy pointed out. “It’s not really giving families access to neighborhoods where government and the private sector have really concentrated their investment.”

Cassidy noted Housing Choice Vouchers are a proven tool, helping nearly 65,000 Michigan households afford a safe place to live, 41% of which have children. The report found landlords earn more than $647 million annually from voucher tenants.

Compared to families in public housing, Cassidy emphasized children whose families use vouchers are more likely to attend college and have increased economic security in their lifetimes. She added the vouchers can be used by families with income not derived from wages or a salary.

“Any kind of public assistance — disability benefits, veterans’ benefits, Social Security — just basically anything that comes from something other than a paycheck,” Cassidy outlined.

Cassidy stressed another impact of such discrimination, is how it reinforces the very deep legacy of racially-based housing discrimination in the United States.

“In previous decades, explicitly racist housing policies channeled families of color into lower-quality rental housing, in neighborhoods that have been deliberately situated near environmental health threats,” Cassidy explained. “That didn’t happen by accident; those were all policy choices.”

Disclosure: The Michigan League for Public Policy contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Children’s Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, and Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

This story was written by Mark Richardson, a producer at Public News Service, where this story first appeared.