BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Multiple bills at the legislature looked to expand safety for renters and allow for transparency in the application process faced serious pushback in committee.
HB606 by State Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Baton Rouge, looked to expand a Baton Rouge Ordinance called Devin’s Law. Devin Page was a 3-year-old shot and killed by a stray bullet in his bed during a drive-by shooting of a nearby house. The city ordinance encourages landlords to install security cameras and lighting. It also requires landlords to share crime information for the surrounding area.
“My daughter had been pleading and saying, look, if you all don’t release us from this lease, somebody is going to get killed in my house,” said Kathy Toliver, grandmother of Devin Page.
The bill now facing the legislature would allow for tenants to leave their lease if there are two or more violent crimes reported within a 1/10th mile radius over a six month period. It would also require the lights and security cameras to be installed.
While legislators were sympathetic to the tragic loss, they fear it would be too easy for people to take advantage of. Edmonds is working with the apartment associations to work out language they can support to get the bill out of committee before the session comes to a close.
HB180 looked to save formerly incarcerated people from spending hundreds on application fees for apartments when they keep getting rejected for their previous crimes. The bill would require landlords to disclose reasons criminal history and which crimes would disqualify them for their housing. This is in hopes to save them from losing their limited funds on too many fees as they search for housing and a job.
“We always say that everybody deserves a second chance. Well, being someone who was formerly incarcerated,” said Edward Holmes of Step Up Louisiana. “Where is our second chance? All we ever get is denied. All we ever get is rejected.”
The bill had numerous cards against it from apartment owners and realtors.
“It’s a bit odd that we can’t let people know why they will be automatically denied housing opportunities before they pay an application fee. It sounds like a racket,” State Rep. Matthew Willard, D-New Orleans, said.
He voluntarily deferred the bill and plans to bring this bill back again next year to work on the language further to help get people into housing and work to reduce the recidivism rates in the state.