Iowa’s Republican governor just signed into law a bill that will give landlords in the state the ability to reject renters who receive rental assistance via the federal housing choice voucher program, the Des Moines Register reported Friday.
Democrats are furious about the move, and there are emerging signs that the Biden administration may try to fight the measure in court.
Without making any kind of statement, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) gave the bill her stamp of approval on Friday, according to reports.
The bill had made its way through Iowa’s Republican-controlled legislature back in March.
According to The Hill, the measure prohibits Iowa counties from adopting laws that stop a landlord “from refusing to lease or rent out a dwelling unit to a person because of the person’s use of a federal housing voucher issued by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.” In effect, the new law gives Iowa landlords the ability to turn away renters who use federal housing vouchers.
The law will override current legislation in Des Moines, Iowa City, and Marion that does bar landlords from turning away renters based on their status in the federal voucher program, The Hill reports.
Two sides of the issue
Perhaps unsurprisingly, property owners in Iowa have expressed widespread support for this new law. They argue that the vouchers add additional hardships to landlords, including by requiring additional inspections and making it more difficult to recover the cost of damages to property.
Proponents of the bill have also pointed out that the federal housing voucher program doesn’t require landlords to accept such renters, anyway.
On the other hand, critics of the bill have claimed that the new law opens the door to discrimination, including against people of color and those with disabilities, the Des Moines Register said.
“We’re ready to fight”
Accordingly, the Biden administration had suggested last month that it would consider bringing a lawsuit against the state if the bill were signed into law.
“It is a discussion that I would need to have with the Department of Justice, but I would clearly believe that we are within our rights to demand that these communities cooperate with what we are doing,” Biden’s Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge said, according to the Register. “If they want to get into a fight about it, we’re ready to fight them about it.”
It remains to be seen whether Fudge will follow through on this threat. According to The Hill, Iowa’s new law is expected to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.