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Lexington moves forward with tenants' rights ordinance as state action hovers over the vote

Josh James

Lexington leaders pressed ahead Thursday with an anti-discrimination ordinance aimed at increasing access to housing for those on federal assistance or other legal third party payments. The move comes as state lawmakers are pushing back.

On a 13-2 vote, Lexington’s Urban County Council gave final approval Thursday to a long-debated measure barring landlords from automatically disqualifying applicants based on legal sources of income – with most of the attention falling on things like Section 8 vouchers.

Councilman David Sevigny thanked tenants’ rights advocates for staying the course.

"I'd like to thank the Kentucky Tenants, who I think are outside maybe cheering a little bit on their own," Sevigny said. "I want to thank them for bringing the item forward, their hard work with it, and their patience because the process is the process and it doesn't always move as fast as we'd like."

It’s a celebration that could be short lived, as lawmakers in Frankfort also have their eyes on the issue – only their bill could undo Lexington’s local ordinance and a similar one passed years ago in Louisville.

Greg Eklund with the Coalition for the Homeless in Jefferson County said, from what he’s seen, the current bill moving through the General Assembly would override such source-of-income ordinances.

"Based on the county attorney opinion that I saw is that this would negate our ordinance that we passed, unanimously bipartisan, back in 2020," he told WUKY.

House Bill 18, which bars any mandate that landlords accept tenants on federal assistance, is on the move in the General Assembly and has passed committees on the House and Senate sides. It appears poised for a vote in the Senate on Tuesday.