Advocates say new invoice breaks housing boundaries, landlords argue it is restrictive

ROCKFORD (WREX) – How renters qualify to rent property could change, and that has affected some Rockford landlords.

They say Illinois House Bill 2775 comes with unfair mandates, but others say it helps marginalized communities.

The law changes the Homelessness Prevention Act. Here’s how:

One of the first questions you see on a lease is, “What is your income?” Under this new legislation, this question could be essentially obsolete.

“An individual might qualify on no income other than a rental subsidy from any source,” said Paul Arena of the Rockford Apartment Association.

Currently, landlords can refuse tenants whose income is Section 8 Housing, SSI, Child Support, or Disability Benefits, to name a few. Because of this, proponents say that opening sources of income breaks barriers.

“I’m a disabled veteran and one source of income has been VA disability income,” said Carolyn Morris, RAMP executive director. “Someone could look at my income and say, ‘Oh, you have no income’ and decide not to rent to me.”

Chicago Democratic Representative La Shawn Ford says, “This new law is critical to ensuring a more just and equitable housing market in our state and to tackling historic segregation and discrimination.”

But Arena argues that it forces landlords into a contract the government can break at any time.

“If someone says they have a Section 8 voucher, the landlord would be required to sign that contract with the government,” says Arena. “We have accepted everything else, the contract is the turning point.”

These vouchers are designed to help low-income tenants get back on their feet. 1,700 families in Rockford are currently using these vouchers, according to the Winnebago County Housing Authority.

“We really believe that the top priority is to ensure that marginalized communities are not discriminated against,” says Morris.

She calls that bill a gain to a renter’s rights, but Arena says it’s a loss to a landlord.

“Everyone goes around the fact that this is ultimately a government mandate,” explains Arena.

The law passed the House on Thursday and is now awaiting a vote in the Senate.

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