- Associated Press
Monday, March 2, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) - A senator from Missouri introduced a bill Monday that aims to increase federal oversight of landlords - and identify and punish those who are neglectful - a measure with bipartisan backers spurred by revelations of mold and rodent infestations in Kansas City public housing.

Republican U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley’s bill would require the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to create a nationwide database to track contract terminations with landlords due to violations of HUD’s Housing Assistance Payments contracts. It would also require public housing authorities to report landlords’ violations to HUD.

The legislation - known as the Bad Landlord Database Act - is an unusual collaboration between Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, a progressive Democrat, and the conservative GOP senator who has been an outspoken champion of President Donald Trump.

Their efforts come after dangerous living conditions were revealed last year at TEH Realty’s properties in St. Louis and Kansas City, including reports of mold and rodent infestations. At the time, Hawley called for a federal investigation and local public housing authorities said they wouldn’t contract with the company.

“In Kansas City and St. Louis - and I saw this as attorney general of the state - we’ve a spate of abusive landlords who are effectively pushing tenants out of their apartments by maintaining substandard living conditions. Tenants often left with no recourse,” Hawley told The Kansas City Star last month.

Lucas said he’s been heartened while working with Hawley on the Senate measure. The pair has plans to tour public housing in Kansas City and hold a forum on the city’s East Side, but the date hasn’t been set.

“I’ll just say this: Every conversation with Sen. Hawley I’ve ever had has been a productive one,” Lucas said. “He has shown an interest in how do we make Kansas City a better place to live, are we creating affordable housing opportunities for Kansas Citians and how do we make Kansas City safer.”

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