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Colorado bill aims to protect renters with vouchers from discrimination

Residential lease
Posted at 8:07 AM, May 19, 2023

DENVER— After a lot of heartache and frustration, Shelli Fransen can finally call Wheat Ridge home.

“It’s a great location for us. The yard, it’s perfect for us. We really like it,” she said.

Fransen moved into her rental home with her two daughters at the end of March with the help of a housing voucher.

“If I were to pay my own rent, it would be 50% of my income for the rent,” said Fransen.

She was turned away from a prior rental due to what she called discrimination.

"She said, 'Well, because the apartment is $1,900 a month, and your voucher is for $1,850, you don't qualify for it.' But I have my income plus the voucher,” said Fransen. “She was basically pushing me in a direction like, 'Here's where we keep our housing voucher holders in these apartments.'”

State Senator Faith Winter (D) says Senate Bill 23-184 will make it easier for renters with vouchers to get housing.

Right now, landlords can require applicants to have an income equivalent to three, four, even five times the rent in order to qualify for their property.

“This says you cannot require more than two times the income to qualify for rent. But for those with vouchers, it can only be about what they're paying above the voucher. So we're going to make sure a lot more people qualify for a lot more units with this legislation,” said Winter.

While vouchers are designed to help with affordable housing, Winter says it comes with a stigma.

“If you're asking folks to have two, three times the income even with voucher income, the system isn't working,” said Winter.

John Paul Marosy, outreach and education coordinator for the Denver Metro Fair Housing Center, says the three most common forms of housing discrimination are landlords refusing to accept the housing voucher, refusing to count the value of the voucher toward the rent to income ratio and steering voucher holders into an area with other voucher holders. He encourages people to reach out and file a complaint if they suspect discrimination.

“We talk the person through their situation and determine if their complaint rises to the level of legal discrimination. If it does, we help them prepare the complaint then refer them to the Colorado Civil Rights Division,” said Marosy.

The Colorado Civil Rights Division told Denver7 if it determines a complainant was treated unfairly due to their source of income, the case could end up in front of a judge if not settled.

Fransen is hopeful she and her daughters are safe in their new home.

“I hope we can stay here for a while,” said Fransen.

The bill was sent to Colorado Governor Jared Polis' desk and awaits his signature. Winter says she's confident he will sign it into law

If signed, the law will take effect in August.