A new package of bills was introduced for the state legislature last week, which looks to address unfair housing practices.
The package, introduced by Representative Jimmy Anderson of Fitchburg, Representative Francesca Hong of Madison, and Representative Supreme Moore Omokunde of Milwaukee, aims to protect Wisconsin tenants from unfair practices.
The first bill would allow tenants to reduce or even withhold rent if their property is damaged or if their property could cause harm to them. Representative Anderson that this is important to providing safe living conditions to all Wisconsin residents.
“There were people who are living in conditions that were illegal, technically, and still being required to pay rent for that property. We decided that that wasn’t okay, and we should be able to provide tenants with more control over that matter,” said Anderson.
The second bill would create a grant program to help fund attorneys for underprivileged tenants who believe they were wrongfully evicted. These grants would only be available for tenants who fall at or below 200% below the federal poverty line. For a single individual, that would be a yearly income of just over $25,000.
The third and final bill in the package would prohibit landlords from discrimination based on someone’s citizenship or immigration status.
Under the federal Fair Housing Act, tenants cannot be discriminated against regardless of their immigration status for things such as race, gender, or national origin.
Current law does not explicitly include discrimination against immigration status or citizenship itself, however.
The new bill would guarantee that people would not be discriminated against due to their immigration status or citizenship, regardless of any changes that would be made to the Fair Housing Act. Representative Hong says all three bills work together to insure that people do not lose their homes.
“We know that those who are housed and facing eviction, having the tools to fight those is important. It’s much more difficult to find housing for those folks, especially in the city of Madison where we are facing systemic racism and red-lining that has historically marginalized folks from accessing more affordable housing. With the current high occupancy rates development continues to be prioritizing those with higher incomes, so these bills are important because it protects those who are currently housed and insures that those who are facing eviction have tools to be able to fight it,” said Hong.
The package is currently circulating for co-sponsorship, and is slated to be introduced to the state assembly soon.
Photo courtesy : Kimson Doan / UNSPLASH