Last week, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the “Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act” (S. 2962). The bill would expand the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program by 50 percent, allowing the program to create or preserve approximately 1.3 million affordable homes over 10 years, or 400,000 more units than under the current program. The LIHTC program provides much-needed funding for construction and preservation of affordable housing across the United States.
Last week, the Senate voted 60 to 37 to table a harmful Fair Housing amendment to the FY 2017 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development/Military Construction-Veterans Affairs appropriations bill.S.Amdt.3897 introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and 5 cosponsors, would have blocked the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from implementing or enforcing its much-needed “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” (AFFH) rule. Each year, people with disabilities initiate over half of all reported complaints of housing discrimination. HUD’s AFFH rule is designed to expand opportunity and fairness in housing for all, including curbing housing discrimination and expanding access to affordable, accessible housing in the community for people with disabilities. The Arc strongly opposed S.Amdt.3897 and applauds the Senate for rejecting this attack on Fair Housing.
Last week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the first-ever allocations from the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) to the states. The NHTF is a new, dedicated source of funding for affordable housing primarily for people with extremely low incomes, a group that includes many people with disabilities. The NHTF is funded by a very small assessment on the volume of business of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federal government sponsored enterprises. This funding stream started up for the first time in 2015 and the first-ever state allocations under the NHTF total $174 million for 2016. State allocations are based on five factors related to the severity of the housing crisis faced by very low income and extremely low income households in the state. The 2016 state allocations range from $3 million (the minimum amount possible, by law) to $10.1 million (to California). States now must develop spending plans for their NHTF dollars. Now is the time for disability advocates to contact the agency in their statethat is in charge of developing the state’s NHTF spending plan to ensure that the plans address the urgent needs of people with disabilities for affordable, accessible, integrated housing in the community. Extensive resources on the NHTF and how to get involved in NHTF advocacy in your state are available from the National Low Income Housing Coalition and from HUD.
April is Fair Housing Month! To celebrate Fair Housing Month 2016, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has launched a new national media campaign to help the public to envision what communities with shared opportunity for all —including people with disabilities—might look like. The new campaign is designed to educate the public about their housing rights and the ideals behind HUD’s new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) initiative. View HUD’s press release to access more resources.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced that nearly $174 million will soon be made available through first-ever allocations of the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF). The NHTF is a new, dedicated source of funding for affordable housing for people with the lowest incomes, a group that includes many people with disabilities. The NHTF is funded by a very small assessment on the volume of business of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federal government sponsored enterprises. The Arc strongly supports funding the NHTF to help meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities for affordable, accessible housing in the community.
On Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to begin the process of defunding Planned Parenthood for one year and repealing the Prevention and Public Health Fund that was created by the ACA. Community health centers would receive approximately $235 million of the savings from stopping federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The House Ways and Means Committee and Education and the Workforce Committee are also expected to vote to repeal key features of the ACA, including provisions requiring individuals and employers to purchase or provide health insurance and some of the tax provisions that help pay for the law. Once the Budget Committee receives the recommendations from each of the committees, it will draft a bill for the full House to consider. President Obama is highly unlikely to sign any legislation repealing key features of the ACA.
Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) has introduced the Eleanor Smith Inclusive Home Design Act (H.R. 3260). The bill would require all newly constructed, federally assisted, single-family houses and town houses to meet minimum standards of visitability for persons with disabilities. Visitability is a set of construction standards through which housing offers a few specific accessibility features making it possible for people with disabilities to visit friends, family, and neighbors. The Arc strongly supports the adoption of visitability standards to promote communities that are welcoming and inclusive for people with disabilities.
Last week, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), in collaboration with the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Veterans Administration, published Key Strategies for Connecting People Experiencing Homelessness to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits. The report outlines several approaches including: assisting people experiencing homelessness with the SSI/SSDI application process; coordinating with SSA field offices, community organizations, and other federal agencies; coordinating with other benefits and entitlements; working with veterans and other special populations; and assisting SSI/SSDI beneficiaries post-entitlement. Visit the USICH web site to read the full report.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a new fair housing regulation aimed at promoting diverse, inclusive communities and overcoming the negative effects of segregation. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, and familial status. HUD’s new regulation is designed to help states and local jurisdictions comply with their existing obligations to “affirmatively further fair housing,” a key provision of the Fair Housing Act. As noted by HUD, the new rule “creates a streamlined Assessment of Fair Housing planning process, which will help communities analyze challenges to fair housing choice and establish their own goals and priorities to address the fair housing barriers in their community.”
Last week, in a tremendous victory for civil rights, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, Inc., a landmark ruling that will support the continued progress of people with disabilities and other minorities toward full inclusion in all aspects of American life. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that housing discrimination is illegal, even if it is not intentional. This decision upholds a longstanding principle under the Fair Housing Act, known as “disparate impact,” that holds that the Fair Housing Act and other civil rights laws, prohibit policies and practices that discriminate, whether or not the policies were motivated by the intent to harm a particular group.
This week’s Supreme Court decision marks an important milestone in our nation’s path toward integration and inclusion. It is a major victory that shores up the progress that people with disabilities and civil rights organizations have made over the last four decades, and strengthens our ongoing work to promote integration and end discrimination in all its forms. Learn more on The Arc’s blog.