Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.. speaks during the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on Why Are So Many American Youth in a Mental Health Crisis? Exploring Causes and Solutions, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine has been working to improve anti-discrimination protections for veterans seeking housing for years. Now he’s introduced new federal legislation to address this hurdle faced too often by former service members.
Many Virginians have only known Tim Kaine as Virginia’s lieutenant governor, governor, or U.S. senator.
But before he was any of those things, Sen. Kaine was a fair housing attorney.
Kaine is continuing this fight in the Senate, most recently by introducing the Fair Housing Improvement Act, which would improve housing options by prohibiting source-of-income discrimination and discrimination based on military or veteran status – making the passage of this bill especially important for Virginians in the Hampton Roads region. Kaine filed similar legislation in 2018.
“Access to safe, affordable housing provides individuals with stability and opportunity, but too often, individuals have been denied housing because of how they pay rent,” Kaine said in a statement. “I’m proud to reintroduce this bill to protect veterans and low-income families from discrimination and expand access to housing for all Americans.”
Kaine said in his over two decades in Virginia politics, the issue of housing “was a top ten issue, not a top five issue, but now housing is a top three issue wherever I go in Virginia.”
Kaine’s bill, which has more than a dozen Senate co-sponsors, echoes other recent Democratic fair housing efforts in the commonwealth. In 2020, a similar bill — which barred discrimination against a potential renter based on source of income — passed the General Assembly, was signed into law, and took effect on July 1 of that year.
But enforcement of the new law has reportedly been spotty, and education for folks on both sides of the housing equation has been lacking. Consequently, the realities of Virginia’s housing market don’t yet reflect the letter of the law.
Additionally, Kaine wants to expand the protections to which Virginians are entitled across the country and put the teeth of federal enforcement behind them.
“The attention that we could get on this by making this national law would be part of educating prospective tenants as well as landlords,” he told Virginia Mercury.
“Reinforcing these anti-discrimination policies at the federal level is fantastic because it adds an additional layer of gravitas,” added Tram Nguyen, a co-executive director of New Virginia Majority, an organization that advocates for and organizes marginalized peoples and communities. “Every tool in our toolbox is important to make sure families can stay in their homes, and this bill would mean that no matter what zip code you live in here in Virginia or across the country, you enjoy those same protections.”