In the final days of the Louisiana legislative session, the House and Senate passed a measure to enhance protections for domestic violence victims against housing discrimination and eviction. After two years of effort by state Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, the measure now awaits Gov. Bobby Jindal's signature.
Federal law currently protects domestic violence victims who receive housing vouchers or who live in subsidized housing. Louisiana's new law expands protection to renters in unsubsidized, market-rate apartments.
According to the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly one in three women in shelters are there because of the actions of an abuser. Those figures are higher in rental-heavy areas of the state. Nearly half the women living in shelters in Orleans and Jefferson parish lost their housing after an act of domestic violence. Broome's measure aims to ensure that domestic violence victims don't lose their housing and are not turned away from housing solely based on their status as domestic abuse victims (which often happens when victims come from a shelter, their last primary address).
Broome attempted similar legislation last year, but it failed by a wide margin in the House after opposition from landlord associations. She worked in the interim with housing advocates and landlords to draft another version for this year's session. The final version of Broome's bill passed the House on June 8 by a vote of 89-9, and the Senate unanimously concurred on June 10. It goes into effect Aug. 1.
The legislation had the support of the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans, the Apartment Association of Greater New Orleans and the Apartment Association of Louisiana, as well as statewide domestic violence advocacy groups.
But in the House on June 8, state Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette (who along with state Rep. Raymond Garofalo Jr., R-Chalmette, had criticized the measure in committee as being too harsh on landlords) introduced a dozen amendments — including stripping some language to make the bill apply only to victims who can prove an offenders' successful conviction for domestic abuse. Landry ultimately pulled the amendments and the measure passed.
Monika Gerhart-Hambrick, policy adviser for the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, says she's pleased by the passage.