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Advocates say new bill breaks housing barriers, landlords argue it’s restrictive

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2775 (1)

ROCKFORD (WREX) — A change could come to how tenants qualify to rent properties, and that has some Rockford landlords concerned.

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

The bill amends the Homelessness Prevention Act. Here's how:

One of the first questions you see on a lease is, "What's your income?" Under this new legislation, that question could essentially become obsolete.

"A person could qualify with no income other than a rent subsidy from some source," Paul Arena with the Rockford Apartment Association explains.

Right now, landlords can deny tenants whose income is Section 8 Housing, SSI, child support, or disability benefits, just to name a few. That's why advocates say opening source income breaks barriers.

"I am a disabled veteran and a source of my income has been VA disability income," Carolyn Morris, RAMP's Executive Director, explains. "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 ensure a more just and equitable housing market across our state and to combat historic segregation and discrimination."

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

"If somebody says that they have a Section 8 voucher, the landlord would have an obligation to sign that contract with the government," Arena says. "We've accepted everything else, the contract is the tipping point."

Those vouchers are designed to help low-income renters get back on their feet. And according to the Winnebago County Housing Authority, right now, 1,700 families in Rockford use these vouchers.

"We really think the top priority here is ensuring that marginalized communities aren't discriminated against," Morris says.

She calls this bill is a win for a tenant's rights, but Arena says it's a loss for landlords.

"Everyone is walking around the fact that, ultimately, this is a government mandate," Arena explains.

On Thursday, the bill passed the House and now, it awaits the Senate for a vote.

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