Community members who have faced barriers to housing in Kalamazoo now have expanded protections on their side, with revisions to local housing ordinances passed by the City of Kalamazoo in September 2020. Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Kalamazoo, Interfaith Strategy for Advocacy and Action in the Community (ISAAC) and a number of community partners advocated for the changes to the ordinances, which add protections for:

  • people with previous evictions
  • people using housing vouchers
  • people using a County identification card
  • previously incarcerated people
"We are excited about the changes to the housing ordinance and believe they will help increase housing access for people of color in Kalamazoo," said Sholanna Lewis, Director of TRHT Kalamazoo. "Housing insecurity particularly impacts young people and the Black population in our area, so these protections have the opportunity to increase racial equity when it comes to housing."
The previous lack of protections served to reinforce structural racism and inequality in Kalamazoo, since these barriers disproportionately impact Black people and other people of color. The ordinance now limits the amount of rental application fees to the actual cost of the background check process. In the event that an applicant is denied housing, it also asks landlords to provide applicants with a written statement explaining the reasons for the rejection. A Civil Rights Board will be appointed to review allegations and violations of the ordinance as well as make recommendations to the City about changing discriminatory practices and policies.

"Housing is foundational and impacts the course of a person's life, influencing everything from their health to the opportunities they have," Kalamazoo City Vice Mayor Patrese Griffin said. We have studied the positive effects of policies like this in other communities in Michigan and across the nation. It is my hope that we will see similar improvements to housing access and life outcomes here in Kalamazoo."

In addition to the housing equity ordinance, the partnership also advocated for the Housing For All Millage that passed in November. Effective December 2021, the millage will provide additional housing assistance programs and protect against discrimination of those who utilize those programs. The joint task force is also working on similar ordinances in other municipalities around the county.

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