LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A bill designed by Nevada Democrats to increase housing access to people of color passed both houses of the Legislature during the 2021 session, but was later vetoed by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, making the likelihood of SB 254 becoming law slim to none.
The bill would have made it illegal for many landlords to ask about or check most of an applicant's criminal history or refuse them housing based on a criminal record.
Supporters pointed to the high prison population among people of color in the United States, 67% according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics despite people of color making up 34% of the general population, as evidence that criminal background checks for housing disproportionately affects minority populations.
The bill would only have allowed landlords to check for a violent sexual path or arson convictions against prospective renters.
Landlord advocates like the Nevada State Apartment Association argued the bill would open their constituents to costly litigation, and potentially expose renters in their facilities to avoidable dangers and criminal activity.
In addition, Susy Vasquez, NSAA executive director, said the bill didn't set a limit for how far back landlords could look back into the allowed criminal history potentially banning some people from housing for life.
"Towards the end we actually turned into tenant advocates and not landlord advocates," she said. "We've been screaming from the rooftops that HUD has guidance that is very clear, and it sets parameters for all landlords to follow, and SB 254 really undermines that process and really made it more difficult for people to obtain housing."
Gov. Sisolak explained his veto in a written statement saying the bill would have been too costly for the Nevada Equal Rights Commission and Attorney General's office to enforce and called the provisions forcing landlords to rent to people with lengthy criminal histories "highly problematic."
Sisolak added that the bill wouldn't do much to address minority housing as the rules wouldn't be applied to corporate landlords.
To be revived, Democrats would need to bring the bill back to the floor in a special session and override the veto with a super majority vote, but, given the vote tallies getting the bill to Sisolak, doesn't seem likely.