Minnesota legislation would prohibit discrimination against renters using Section 8 vouchers

A woman speaks at a podium
Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan speaks about a bill aimed at protecting people using rental assistance from being discriminated against when seeking housing on Thursday. Flanagan put up a photo of her as a six year old, when her family lived in a St. Louis Park apartment building using Section 8 vouchers.
Peter Cox | MPR News

New legislation in the Minnesota House aims to make discrimination against someone on rental assistance illegal.

The Housing Stability Act, which was introduced in mid-February, would add rental assistance under the definition of public assistance, which is a protected class under the state law.

Some democratic leaders, along with housing advocates, spoke about the bill during a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan talked about the importance of Section 8 vouchers for her family. She says vouchers allowed them to live in an apartment building in St. Louis Park. She also brought a photo of her from when she was six, that she put up during the event.

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“This legislation changed my life, changed my mom’s life. And this legislation really saved our lives. I grew up in the community of St. Louis Park, where I still live with my family, thanks to and because of a Section 8 housing voucher,” she said. “That voucher gave us a home, a sense of security, a foundation to grow and the opportunity for me to just be a kid.”

Flanagan went on to say rental assistance programs helped her, and many others, to get to where she is today.

“I want to remind you why this matters,” she said. “There are so many people that I know in Minnesota who relied on the foundation of a Section 8 housing voucher, and now are big people doing big things in this state. But at one time, we all were kiddos who needed a little support and investment.” 

The bill is written to address a 2010 Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling that Section 8 vouchers are not protected under state law, as public assistance, because it is a voluntary program for landlords.

It is authored by Kaohly Vang Her, DFL-St. Paul, who says she wants to directly address that decision in state law.

“We must clarify that property owners and management companies cannot refuse to rent to someone because they receive and use public assistance to pay for their rent,” she said.