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City staff and tenants union worried about housing voucher bill

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - The Iowa City Tenants Union and Iowa City city staff are worried about the effects of a bill that would empower landlords and hurt low-income renters.

Senate File 252 would prohibit cities from making laws that stop landlords from denying someone housing because they're on the Housing Choice Voucher Program (commonly referred to as Section 8 housing).

Three cities in Iowa have such ordinances: Iowa City, Des Moines and Marion. Iowa City added its ordinance in 2016.

"If all of a sudden all landlords are able to opt out of the program, this program becomes useless," Laura Widman said, the legal liaison for the tenants union.

The Iowa City Tenants Union educates renters on their rights as tenants and helps them resolve disputes with landlords.

Widman says Iowa City's ordinance has helped level the playing field and removing it will leave low-income renters with too few housing options.

"The majority of people who are using Section 8 housing vouchers are low-income, elderly, disabled and veteran tenants," Widman said.

Rachel Kilburg, assistant to the city manager, says the ordinance has helped Iowa City with its equity goals.

"It just ensures that residents are able to obtain fair housing," Kilburg said.

The bill passed the Iowa Senate Wednesday 30-17, after passing the House two days prior. Rep. Dave Deyoe, R-Nevada, chaired the bill in the house and says its important to protect the rights of landlords.

"There are some landlords that just simply would rather not have to get involved with the extra paperwork or inspections...The best way to make housing more affordable is to increase the amount of housing that we have in the state," Deyoe said.

The bill is now awaiting Governor Reynolds' signature. However, it would not go into effect until 2023; the intention is to allow tenants time to evaluate their options if landlords do plan on kicking them out.

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Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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