Injustice

Kalamazoo adopts historic Fair Housing Ordinance

The new rules seek to curb discrimination in rental housing in the city of Kalamazoo.

The Kalamazoo city commission on Tuesday night unanimously passed a group of ordinances that would make it a little easier for many in Kalamazoo to find and keep a home.

The Fair Housing Ordinance has been in the works for more than a year, with public meetings, input sessions, and interviews with local stakeholders.

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The result is a set of rules that seeks to even out inequalities in rental housing in Kalamazoo.

Specifically, the ordinance does several things:

  • Protects potential renters from being discriminated against based on their criminal record, status as a victim of domestic violence, source of income, and other things
  • Strengthens rules barring discrimination against potential renters for their sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Protects renters from predatory application fees
  • Creates a civil rights board to review complaints from renters

Carrie Pickett-Erway, the president and CEO of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, praised the ordinance during the city’s meeting.

“Currently Kalamazoo has one of the highest populations of homeless children in the state. And although Kalamazoo County is only 11 percent black, nearly 64 percent of the homeless population is black,” she said.

“Of nearly 700 people surveyed, eviction and convictions were the most named barriers [to adequate housing] after cost-related issues,” she said. “Forty-one percent of our homeless population identified [themselves] as a victim or survivor of domestic violence, which is often associated with eviction.”

Not everyone who spoke during Tuesday night’s meeting were in favor of the proposed rules, though. James Brigante said he would not buy a rental property in Kalamazoo if the ordinance were to pass.

“I think it’s absurd,” he said. “It makes it impossible for landlords to properly screen tenants. It’s a big burden for us rectifying damages after tenants who are not collectible move out.”

You can read more at Southwest Michigan’s Second Wave.