LEXINGTON, Ky. — Calls for equal housing opportunities and concern for renters have poured out of Lexington from concerned property owners and renters.

What You Need To Know

  • Recently dozens of people spoke out at the city's social services committee about the source of income-based discrimination. 

  • Lexington Council recently heard hours of public comment on the source of income-based discrimination from renters and landlords.

  • They say they want a decision on moving the bill forward to the state by the end of the year.  

  • Organizations like the Kentucky Fair Housing Council are among the groups joining conversations.

Over the last two years, Lexington renters and landlords have strongly voiced their concerns about housing accessibility with city leaders.

At the moment the biggest issue for Lexington’s renters is around changing and or establishing a new tenants’ rights bill, they are asking the council to consider a ban on housing discrimination in a bill protecting renters from source of income discrimination.

That means individuals and families using housing support vouchers from agencies, nonprofits and government assistance. 

“Landlords wouldn’t be able to just say, ‘I’m not going to rent to you simply because you have a housing voucher or because you have housing assistance.’ They would have to treat these applicants just like anybody who is paying with private money from like a job or anything like that,” said Kentucky Fair Housing Council assistant director Drew Bowling. 

On Nov. 14, the Lexington urban county council heard public comments from people on both sides of the issue who are asking for them to take it to lawmakers before the end of the year.

Spokespersons for families shared their stories of challenges with fair housing based on income at the meeting.

One tenant who rents from property owners said:

“Mom is 73 years old now and relies partly on social security for her income. Social security is a form of supplemental income the Lexington landlords can currently refuse from tenants. So this is an issue that directly impacts my mother in particular, but also me as well.”

However, property owners who rent say a discrimination ban is unnecessary. 

One landlord who rents to Lexington tenants said:

“The problem in Lexington, Kentucky, is we only have 3,500 section eight vouchers, out of that, about 2900. We’ve learned this from our last meeting: 2,900 are single Black females.”

Bowling said around 12% of Lexington’s population is African American and represents nearly 70% of the section-eight vouchers allocated a year.

In 1999, Lexington established a local fairness ordinance, which protects people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment and public instances. Bowling says they would like to see advancements as time, habitability and the market changes.

“So a lot of these folks are already protected against discrimination by the Fair Housing Act, and we feel that the source of income protection would just improve fair housing protections for these folks.” Bowling said. 

Bowling said that while the matter has been difficult for both renters and property owners, having a place for people in the community to stay is the ultimate concern.