Kentucky Pushes to Expand Fair Housing Rights to Residents – Fair Housing 5 for March 4, 2016

Although March is named after the Roman god of war and steward of agriculture, we’d like to think of the month as anything but war-like. Unfortunately, historians disagree about which Roman god was the god of fair housing (although Minerva or Janus would be two awesome candidates to be our fair housing patron), so we can’t really say who would be our avatar this month. What we can tell you, though, is about some of the bigger fair housing stories that happened across our state and beyond this past month. Plus, the days are getting longer and warmer, and there’s just something about that shifting of the seasons that makes fair housing even more marvelous.

  • A great step forward was taken in February by the Kentucky House of Representatives as a bill that would provide additional rental protections to victims of domestic violence was passed in a 90-3 vote. House Bill 41, according to Jodi Jenkins, the bill’s sponsor, would “remove barriers some victims face in leaving abusive relationships” by permitting a victim of domestic violence to terminate a lease early without penalty. Of course, should the bill become law, there would be a specific protocol in place that victims would need to follow, which includes obtaining a long-term protective order. Additionally, the proposed law would prevent landlords from using the so-called “zero tolerance” rule against victims, which essentially means if the police are called to a resident’s home even once, that is grounds to evict a tenant. Obviously, if someone is a victim of domestic violence and needs to call the police to intervene, it seems a harsh policy to then evict that person for simply trying to call for help. The bill now will move to the Kentucky Senate. [WKYT]
  • Supporters of LGBT civil rights gathered in Kentucky’s capital last month to push legislators to craft and approve a state-wide fairness law that would protect LGBT-identified people from employment and housing discrimination. Currently, only eight cities in Kentucky – Lexington, Morehead, Danville, Frankfort, Louisville, Midway, Vicco, and Covington – have passed ordinances that forbid a business to deny employment or housing services to a person because of that person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Those at the rally focused on the current legal gap in the United States between marriage rights and employment and housing rights. “People shouldn’t have to fear losing their jobs or their housing or be thrown out of a restaurant because of who they are and who they love, you know,” said Rose Marie Rocha. “We got marriage equality, but we can be fired from a job.” [WHAS 11]
  • While many in Frankfort advocate for the expansion of civil rights for LGBT residents, some have visited the capitol with a contrary mission: to support a “religious liberty” bill that would empower private businesses in Kentucky to deny services to any identified as gay, lesbian, or trans on the grounds of religious objection. The bill states that “businesses could not be punished in such cases for violating local ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.” It’s hard to not imagine that this bill, should it pass, would have vast implications on Kentucky’s fair housing ordinances. [Herald-Leader]
  • The Anne Braden Institute for Social Justice Research has put together information for residents and visitors of Louisville who want to embark on a self-guided tour of the city’s civil rights history. This is the third edition of the tour guide, which features historical sites such as a commemoration for Charles Parker, the first African-American elected to a southern legislature in the 20th century (1935), and the home of I. Willis Cole, who founded Louisville’s first civil rights-oriented Black newspaper (the Louisville Leader). [Courier-Journal]
  • Finally, a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows exactly how much income a resident in Kentucky would need in order to keep a roof over their heads. Surprisingly, Kentucky is among the least expensive places to live in the country. That said, at the current minimum wage of $7.25, a person would have to work 57 hours a week simply to afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rent. Alternately, if you only want to work 40 hours a week, then a person would need a wage of $10.14/hour in order to afford a one-bedroom home in Kentucky. According to the report, the most expensive counties in the state to live in are Trigg, Christian, Woodford, Jessamine, and Fayette. In the least expensive places to live in Kentucky, though, a person would still need to earn at least $10.73/hour in order to afford a two-bedroom home. [NLIHC]