Both chambers of the state’s legislature approved the bill in March. The law states that counties can’t enact laws that prohibit landlords from refusing to rent “to a person because of the person’s use of a federal housing choice voucher issued by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.”
The Des Moines Register reported that the governor signed the bill. The state legislature’s website didn’t say whether the bill was signed, and the governor’s website didn’t feature an update on the matter. The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for an update.
More than 39,500 people in Iowa used federal housing choice vouchers in 2020, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The average voucher was worth $439, with an average household income for the beneficiaries being $12,577 annually.
Landlord groups advocated for the law’s passage.
“We try to train our members on the advantages of accepting Section 8, or housing choice vouchers, but our preference is that it would remain a voluntary program,” Iowa Landlords Association Executive Director Andrew Lietzow told the Register.
The landlords argued that accepting the vouchers led to more inspections and trouble recovering the money spent on fixing damaged properties. Opponents of the law claim that it’s racist.
“When you reduce the number of landlords that are willing to accept the voucher, that just creates one more hurdle for … our most vulnerable population,” Des Moines Community Development Director Chris Johansen told the Register.
HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge claimed in an interview in March that “fair housing is the law of the land” and suggested that the Iowa bill is “a violation of the law.” Fudge said she may get the Department of Justice involved to challenge the Iowa measure in court.
“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,” Fudge told MSNBC on March 17. “If they want to get into a fight about it, we’re ready to fight them about it.”
According to the Register, three cities in Iowa currently have local ordinances compelling landlords to accept federal housing vouchers: Des Moines, Iowa City, and Marion.