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As a conference committee finished work on a housing, labor and transportation bill earlier this week, state Rep. Mike Howard singled out a fellow DFL senator for uncommonly sharp criticism over his opposition to federal housing vouchers that help poorer Minnesotans pay rent.

"I think it's important for the public to know that the reason this bill isn't moving forward is because the Senate Judiciary Chair, Senator Latz, has informed us that he would vote against this entire housing, transportation and labor bill if this provision is in this bill," Howard, of Richfield, said in the House-Senate committee.

The provision would have prohibited landlords from posting ads saying "No Section 8″ and required them to accept the vouchers from qualified renters.

In Minnesota, the federal program is voluntary and it can be challenging for renters with vouchers to find willing landlords. The vouchers help the elderly, people with disabilities and very low-income residents afford housing. Participants are not limited to housing in subsidized low-income units.

The Section 8 requirement passed the House but not the Senate, both this session and last year. Howard noted that 20 states have a similar provision and Minneapolis passed an ordinance that has been upheld by the state Supreme Court.

"Just as you can't say 'no Black or brown people allowed,' you can't discriminate against someone depending on where their income is coming from," Howard said in an interview about the requirement. Ads explicitly barring Section 8 renters cause "real harm in what they say to people," he said.

Latz, of St. Louis Park, said he's been consistently opposed to the Section 8 provision, calling the federal program flawed, deeply underfunded and a bureaucratic mess.

"I'm a strong supporter of vouchers and affordable housing as my record reflects, but as for this particular provision, the way it's worded would basically force property owners to sign a federal contract to rent out their property," Latz said in an interview Wednesday.

Latz said if landlords want to opt in to the program, that's fine with him, but it shouldn't be required. He emphasized that he's long been an advocate of affordable housing in his district and took issue with the notion that he was seeking to scuttle the whole bill.

"I don't know Representative Howard," Latz said. "It was a little awkward seeing him say this and making it seem that I was gunning to take down the whole bill."

Latz said DFLers disagree often on issues, and provisions are dropped from bills all the time in conference committees. "That's the way a bicameral Legislature works," he said.

On his economic interest disclosure with the state Campaign Finance Board, Latz listed two rental condos in his district. Latz said his wife rents out the units, he has little to do with them and they would be too expensive for Section 8 users.

In public records for rental properties in St. Louis Park, both Latz and his wife, Julia, are listed as applicants.

Instead of the vouchers, Latz said the federal program should consider robust incentives for landlords such as property tax relief.

Howard said he spoke up about Latz's opposition to explain why the provision didn't survive. "I think it's the public's prerogative to know why it did or didn't happen," Howard said.

In the televised committee session, he called it "beyond disappointing that one member of this Legislature would seek to take down all of the fine work that went into the bill."

Howard's comments came after Sen. Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville, informed the committee that "unfortunately the Senate does not have the votes to pass this provision and to protect against discrimination." She didn't mention Latz but said, "I will not hide my disappointment."

Of Howard, Latz said he doesn't doubt his sincerity or passion, but "I was obviously disappointed that he felt compelled to call me out."