Four community and civil rights organizations have asked Mayor Angel Taveras to veto an ordinance passed Tuesday by the Providence City Council, which would unduly expand the city’s nuisance properties ordinance.

In a letter sent today to Mayor Taveras, the organizations called the ordinance “dangerous,” and said its passage will encourage discrimination by landlords and unsafe neighborhoods.

The Groups Wrote

“While we understand the frustration of law enforcement called repeatedly to the same location, the appropriate response is not to make tenants afraid to call for help when it is needed, nor is it to encourage discrimination by landlords. Unfortunately, that is exactly the ordinance’s purpose. We were disappointed during the ordinance’s first committee hearing to hear both the Providence Police Department and the Law Department testify that landlords repeatedly rent to people “who just don’t care” and that this ordinance was introduced to prevent landlords from renting to certain types of people, although it is unclear to us exactly who those people are supposed to be. We are unsure just how landlords can, with complete certainty, rent only to individuals who will never interact with law enforcement. It is sadly most likely landlords will rely on unconscious and outmoded biases involving criminality and profiling. As a result, the City will be encouraging and sanctioning racial profiling and discrimination against those with criminal records, or those who look a certain way or who come from certain parts of town, the very individuals already suffering the most difficulty obtaining housing.”

The ordinance allows law enforcement to label as nuisance properties any location to which they have been called more than once in six months for a criminal complaint, or served more than one drug-related search warrant against in two years, regardless of whether charges were ever filed. Tenants and landlords are then subject to significant fines and penalties if they fail to meet requirements put forth by the Chief of Police, including potential tenant eviction.

The letter was signed by Direct Action for Rights and Equality, the National Association of Social Workers Rhode Island Chapter, Providence Youth Student Movement, and the Rhode Island ACLU. The Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights and the Coalition Against Domestic Violence also submitted written testimony to the City Council in opposition of the ordinance.