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.
The Technical Assistance Collaborative and the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Housing Task Force have released Priced Out in 2014, a new study which highlights an ongoing barrier to community living for people with disabilities – the lack of accessible, affordable housing. This publication is released every two years, and includes national, state and local data. The 2014 results show that the national average rent for a modestly priced one-bedroom apartment is greater than the entire average Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment for a person with a disability living in the community. “This report makes an important contribution to our understanding of the full dimensions of the rental housing affordability crisis. It is required reading for policymakers and the public alike,” write Former HUD Secretary Cisneros and Former Senator Bond, co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center Housing Commission, in the Priced Out in 2014 forward. To read the report and access state and local data, visit the Priced Out web site.
April is Fair Housing Month, a time to celebrate the Fair Housing Act and raise awareness about this important civil rights law. The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate in the sale or rental of housing based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, familial status or disability. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has kicked off Fair Housing Month with the launch of a new national media campaign. This year’s campaign, implemented by HUD in partnership with the National Fair Housing Alliance, highlights the release of a number of new public service announcements and uses the Twitter hashtag #FairHousingMonth. National, state, and local disability advocates are encouraged to participate in this opportunity to enhance awareness of the Fair Housing Act and its important protections for people with disabilities and other covered groups.
The Permanently Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2015 has been introduced in the House and Senate (H.R. 1354, introduced March 13 by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and 24 cosponsors; S. 730, introduced March 12 by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and 5 cosponsors). The bills would provide permanent protections for tenants at foreclosure, formerly available under the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009 (PTFA; P.L. 111-22, Division A, Title VII). The PTFA expired at the end of 2014. The PTFA was the only federal protection for renters living in foreclosed properties. It provided most renters with the right to at least 90 days of notice before being required to move after foreclosure. The Arc supports this important legislation to enhance protections for tenants at foreclosure, including tenants with disabilities and their families.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced awards totaling $150 million to 24 states and the District of Columbia to develop an estimated 4,584 units of inclusive, affordable supportive housing in the community for people with significant disabilities and extremely low incomes. HUD awarded the funds through the recently-modernized Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities Project Rental Assistance (PRA) program. The Section 811 PRA program is designed to assist state housing agencies to expand integrated, supportive housing opportunities for people with the most significant and long term disabilities, and was the centerpiece of the Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act of 2010. The Arc applauds HUD for its continued progress in implementing this innovative model.
In Congress, the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations will decide soon how much funding each appropriations subcommittee will receive in FY 2016 — called the “302(b)” allocation. It is critical that the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Subcommittees receive the highest possible levels. The top-line “302(b)” level will determine how much money is available for affordable housing programs in FY 2016, and will affect funding for critical housing programs for people with disabilities, such as public housing; Section 8 housing choice vouchers; Section 811 Supporting Housing for Persons with Disabilities; and Homeless assistance programs.
Federal community development funding at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been cut by nearly 30% since FY 2010. HUD-funded agencies are routinely overwhelmed by applications for rental assistance, and years-long wait lists for assistance have become dishearteningly normal. The cuts have caused the loss of 70,000 rental assistance opportunities for low income families since 2013. At the same time, people with disabilities face an ongoing crisis in the lack of affordable, accessible community housing – a gap will only grow, unless adequate funding is available.
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Last week, Rep. Edward R. Royce (R-CA-39) and 12 co-sponsors introduced a bill (H.R. 574) to prohibit contributions by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF). The bill was referred to the House Committee on Financial Services. Congress created the NHTF in 2008 to fund affordable housing for people with the lowest incomes, a group that includes many people with disabilities. By law, the NHTF is intended to have dedicated funding from a very small assessment on the volume of business of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. However, until now the NHTF has remained unfunded. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ran into deep financial trouble as the foreclosure crisis hit the nation in the fall of 2008, and as a result, contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the NHTF were suspended. However, in December 2014 the Federal Housing Finance Agency ended the suspension, meaning that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will now begin setting aside and directing funds to the NHTF. Current projections are that states will begin receiving NHTF funds in the spring of 2016. The Arc strongly supports funding the NHTF to help meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities for affordable, accessible community housing. The Arc strongly opposes efforts to block funds going into the NHTF, such as H.R. 574.
Last week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released regulations implementing the National Housing Trust Fund. In an effort to foster understanding among state and local housing advocates and providers, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) will be hosting a webinar Thursday, February 5, 2015 from 1-2 pm (EST) on The National Housing Trust Fund: Getting to Know the Regulations. The webinar will review information advocates and providers need in order to maximize the NHTF dollars states will be receiving in early 2016. Sign up for the webinar.
Last week, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to begin allocating funds to the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF). Congress created the NHTF in 2008 to fund affordable housing for people with the lowest incomes, a group that includes many people with disabilities. However, until now the NHTF has remained unfunded. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 authorized FHFA to temporarily suspend allocations from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the NHTF, which FHFA did on November 13, 2008. Last week, FHFA ended the suspension, meaning that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will now begin setting aside and directing funds to the NHTF. The NHTF will be administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which issued a statement noting that HUD will “soon issue regulations” to implement the NHTF. The Arc strongly supports funding the NHTF to help meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities for affordable, accessible community housing.