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Proposed change to Milwaukee housing rules has landlords worried

MILWAUKEE COUNTY (CBS 58) - A possible change to housing rules in Milwaukee County has some landlords worried.

It would make it harder for landlords to turn away people who use government housing vouchers.

The proposal in front of the County Board is trying to protect people on housing vouchers just like it protects people based on their religion, gender or race.

But landlords are worried what this will mean when it comes to tenants.

Ron Hegwood has been a landlord for almost 40 years and accepts tenants who are on housing vouchers.

He is also President of the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin and knows that some landlords are nervous about this proposal.  “There's a problem, I acknowledge that,” said Hegwood, “I just don't think this is a solution to that problem.”

The change would add “receipt of rental or housing assistance” to the list of things protected from discrimination, right alongside things like age, gender, and sexual orientation.

“I don't like being told I have to accept rent assistance,” said Hegwood, “I think that's wrong and I don't like the idea of making them a protected class.”

The Housing Authority in Milwaukee disagrees.  “It's not that you have to take the person, you just can't discriminate against them because they are a voucher holder,” said Willie Hines, Associate Director at the Housing Authority.

He says this proposal doesn’t force landlords to do anything, it just tries to make sure voucher holders are on a level playing field.

“Treat a voucher holder no different than you would treat any other person that's looking to rent your property,” said Hines, “They may not qualify for another reason, but the key reason is you can't disqualify them simply because they are a voucher holder.”

Hegwood already accepts people on vouchers but is worried where this proposal could lead.

“I understand the need to help people move to better zip codes and hopefully help them to better their life,” said Hegwood, “I just don't know that this is the vehicle to do that.”

One of Hegwood's concerns is that it's hard to recoup money if a person on vouchers doesn't pay rent or leaves damage behind when they leave.

He says the Housing Authority doesn't hold them responsible.

The Housing Authority says landlords can use the same tools to get their money back that they would for any other renter.

The change was proposed by Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic.  It is still being considered by the full board.

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