The Sioux City Human Rights Commission will host a workshop to educate community members about their rights as tenants on Monday evening.
The fair housing workshop aims to help tenants understand their rights and protect themselves against discriminatory practices. Manager Karen Mackey said she hopes the Iowa Tenants leave with a better understanding of how to defend themselves.
Mackey said a shortage of affordable housing in the area is leading many tenants to accept worse treatment. She said with the competitive housing market, it’s important that tenants have a clear understanding of their legal protections.
“If you’re going to find yourself in a situation where you’re renting from someone you know isn’t a good landlord, know what your rights are and be very firm from the start,” Mackey said. “And knowing what they don’t have to put up with is important.”
“They are ready to accept anything because of competitiveness, because there is such a shortage and such a crisis.”
Jessica Ryan, Sioux City Human Rights Commission Investigator
Sioux City Human Rights Commission investigator Jessica Ryan said that since the end of the eviction moratorium in Iowa in August of last year, their office has seen an influx of people with eviction papers in hand asking for help. Ryan said his office was helping investigate the circumstances of the eviction to see if there was discrimination involved.
Iowa Legal Aid predicts that 2022 will bring a record number of evictions, according to a report by Axios Des Moines. The state of Iowa is on track to see more than 20,000 eviction filings this year. This is partly due to a loss of COVID-19 emergency rental assistance that has helped keep people in their homes.
Once evicted, it is more difficult to find accommodation elsewhere. Ryan said this makes them more vulnerable to discriminatory practices.
“What we found most was people scrambling to find something they could rent,” Ryan said. “They are ready to accept anything because of competitiveness, because there is such a shortage and such a crisis.”
The Iowa Finance Authority reports that more than 40% of renters spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Mackey said she sees that many families are only one financial setback away from losing their homes.
“It doesn’t take long to get there if you’re renting,” she said.
The workshop will work to raise awareness of local resources to prevent evictions and help low-income families. Mackey said his department will also be available to answer questions about people’s personal experiences with discriminatory housing policies.
The event will take place at the Urban Native Center at 1501, rue Genève from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.