The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

IC City Council to vote on unenforceable landlord discrimination housing code

The Iowa City City Council voted to change the language of a now unenforceable ordinance rather than entirely repeal it from the city code.
Cody Blissett
The Iowa City Council holds a meeting in Iowa City on Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023.

After a state law made it legal for landlords to discriminate against tenants with vouchers, the City of Iowa City is working to keep its anti-discrimination ordinance on this issue in the city code.

The Iowa City City Council unanimously voted to keep, rather than repeal, a now unenforceable city ordinance that states landlords cannot discriminate against tenants who use housing choice vouchers at Tuesday night’s meeting.

This decision resulted from a state law that went into effect at the start of 2023 that no longer allowed local governments to enforce anti-discrimination ordinances related to housing choice vouchers, meaning landlords could now refuse tenants with these vouchers.

A housing choice voucher is a federal program that lends financial assistance for housing to lower-income families, older adults, and individuals with disabilities.

The bill was signed into law in 2021 but did not take effect until Jan. 1 this year. At the city council’s Jan. 10 meeting, city staff asked the council to remove its ordinance related to housing vouchers to avoid keeping a city code that could not be legally enforced.

At that meeting, the councilors expressed their disappointment with this legislation and decided to defer their decision to see how landlords would react to this legislation, City Attorney Eric Goers said at Tuesday’s meeting. 

Since then, city staff has received a number of complaints from both landlords and tenants about the ordinance not being changed, Goers said. 

Some tenants have reported being discriminated against by their landlords regarding housing vouchers, and city staff had to inform them that it was now legal to do so despite what the city code states, Goers said. Landlords have also expressed confusion as to why the ordinance is still in the city’s code, Goers said.

In response to this, Councilor Andrew Dunn made a motion to amend the language of the ordinance instead of repealing the ordinance altogether. 

Dunn said the ordinance should state that it is unenforceable, but also state that if the state legislature were to ever repeal the housing choice voucher law, the ordinance would then be enforceable once again.

Dunn said this solution would allow the city to keep the ordinance in some form but also eliminate confusion surrounding the ordinance’s language and enforceability.

“[The amendment] addresses the aspect of cleaning up the code, it addresses the confusion component because if people will look to the ordinance, it will clearly say that it is unenforceable,” Dunn said. “But it will also allow it to be enacted immediately should the state legislature get to a better place and allow us to think forward to the future.”

The rest of the council agreed to this amendment and unanimously voted to make Dunn’s proposed amendment to the ordinance. This amendment will be drafted to then be voted on at the next city council meeting, Goers said.

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About the Contributors
Isabelle Foland
Isabelle Foland, News Editor
Isabelle Foland is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Spanish. She is a second-year news reporter at The Daily Iowan, reporting mainly on Iowa City City Council. She is from Missouri Valley, Iowa and has reported for her hometown paper prior to her time at The DI.
Cody Blissett
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.