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Interfaith Coalition members ask legislators to pass legislation to prevent housing discrimination

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Faith leaders called on Rhode Island legislators to end housing discrimination based on source of income yesterday. They were at the State House to advocate for bills (S0331/H5137) that would make it illegal for landlords to deny tenancy solely because of one’s lawful source of income. 14 states and Washington DC, plus 76 counties and municipalities across the nation have already passed such legislation. Providence is currently considering legislation to ban source of income discrimination at the municipal level.

In 2017, half of all renters in Rhode Island were housing cost burdened, meaning that they were spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs. Nearly 80 percent of low-income renters were housing cost burdened. From 2000-2017, the number of cost burdened renters has increased by 40 percent.

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Members of the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty held a short speaking session before advocating directly to Representatives and Senators on the floors of the House and Senate before the start of session. Coalition Director Victoria Strang opened the event and Rabbi Howard Voss-Altman of Temple Beth-El moderated the speaking program.

Victoria Strang

“Today we are gathering to raise awareness on the issue of housing discrimination,” said Strang, “something that impacts thousands of Rhode Island families, and to let our elected officials know that we will no longer stand for a practice that continually shuts the door in the face of our neighbors. Everyone deserves the opportunity to live in safe, affordable housing.”


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“Our faith traditions declare that we must love our neighbors as we love ourselves,” said Rabbi Voss-Altman. “But despite this religious command, many of our neighbors in Rhode Island are legally denied the opportunity to find housing because they receive a government housing voucher. This discriminatory law is not only unjust, but also contravenes our religious commitment to fairness and dignity for all.”

“This program will help me tremendously when I do get my voucher,” said Wendy Thomas, who has been homeless do to a house fire.

Senator Harold Metts (Democrat, District 6, Providence) sponsored the bill in the Senate.

Representative Anastasia Williams (Democrat, District 9, Providence) sponsored the bill in the House.

Closing words from Rabbi Voss-Altman.

Kristina Fox, Policy Analyst at Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless lead the assembled clergy to the House and Senate floors.


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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade. atomicsteve@gmail.com