KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Kalamazoo is considering a new proposal with the goal of addressing racism and inequality in housing.
Crowds filled the city commission chambers Monday night for a work session to discuss the plan.
According to Vice Mayor Patrese Griffin, local governments need to have clear laws that address fairness in housing.
“When we talk about housing, we talk about building more units, which is absolutely necessary, but if we don’t address the barriers that people have into entering into those units such as their criminal background or their eviction history or even application fees, then there will continue to be a problem,” Griffin said.
Some of the proposed changes include eliminating blanket housing rejections, creating new protections for people who use housing vouchers and establishing more rights for people who were incarcerated.
“The federal government does have things in place, as we all know,” Griffin said. “That doesn’t always pan out for everyone, so it’s important that local governments really put their stamp down and let it be known.”
The plan would also regulate rental application fees, create a civil rights board to review complaints and fine landlords who do not comply.
Several landlords spoke during public comment, saying the ordinance puts too much of a burden on them, does not create clear uniform standards and does not address the root issues leading to homelessness.
“The effort to concentrate this upon the landlords of the city is not only inappropriate, but it’s wrong,” said Mike Fleckenstein, a landlord in Kalamazoo. “Why haven’t we raised this to the level of the county, why not engage Texas Township, city of Portage.”
Grand Rapids passed a similar ordinance in August of 2019.
Griffin hopes Kalamazoo commissioners can vote as soon as possible on the proposal.
“These are lives that we’re talking about,” Griffin said. “These are people we’re talking about and that’s very important.”
You can read the proposed ordinance in its entirety on the city of Kalamazoo’s website.