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.
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.