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Tossing Iowa ordinances that ban rejection of Section 8 housing vouchers

DES MOINES — All but two Republicans in the Iowa House have voted to ban city ordinances that prevent landlords from rejecting potential tenants who use government housing vouchers to pay rent.

The Republican-led Senate has voted to immediately ban these kind of ordinances, in effect today in Des Moines, Iowa City and Marion, but the House-approved ban would start in 2023. Representative Dave Deyoe, a Republican from Nevada, said landlords should have the freedom to decide if they want to accept so-called Section 8 vouchers.

“Some landlords that just simply would rather not have to get involved with the extra paperwork or inspections or changes to their apartments or whatever else that might come around because of that,” Deyoe said.

Democrats like Representative Phyllis Thede of Davenport say the ban will hurt low income Iowans, including veterans, elderly and disabled Iowans who get government housing assistance.

“I’m going to watch Marion, Des Moines and Iowa City — I’m going to watch to see as these people struggle to find housing,” Thede said. “…I’m angry because you are hurting people.”

Other Democrats say without housing, it’s hard to get and keep a job. Representative Tracy Ehlert, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, said housing vouchers lift people out of the “circle of poverty.”

“Less than 15 years ago I myself lived on Section 8 housing as a single mother,” she said, “and without having that assistance — which I only used for about a year — I may not be here today as a legislator, as a business owner or even a college graduate.”

Deyoe, the bill’s Republican floor manager, said the market is distorted if landlords are forced to accept Section 8 housing vouchers.

“Is that going to encourage…more construction of housing? I would argue that it’s going to mean less housing overall,” Deyoe said, “and that’s going to mean higher costs and less housing available for poor people, whether they’re on Section 8 or not.”

The Senate must approve House adjustments in the bill before it goes to the governor.

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