Housing Is a Human Right – Women’s Lives Depend on It
COVID-19 and the she-cession have exacerbated a housing crisis with disproportionate gender and racial impacts. New NWLC research shows that in mid-July, 41% of Black, non-Hispanic women and 45% of Latinas faced housing insecurity, more than two and a half times the housing insecurity white, non-Hispanic men face (15%). Those rates increased to 45% for Black, non-Hispanic women with children and 49% for Latinas with children.
Fair access to safe, affordable, and accessible housing is vital to the wellbeing of women and girls. Housing impacts health, education, food security, employment, and access to public programs that help families with low incomes meet basic needs. We believe that housing is a human right. But many members of Congress and the Trump administration apparently disagree. Here’s an update on the latest housing issues.
- Effective September 4 through December 31, 2020, some renters can access protections from evictions through a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order that recognizes the increased threat of COVID-19 exposure, hospitalization, and death people experiencing homelessness face. Renters must meet certain income and other requirements and provide a signed declaration to their landlord (and the court if they’re already in an eviction proceeding) about their inability to pay their rent. The National Low Income Housing Coalition and National Housing Law Project put together resources including an overview of the CDC order, FAQs, and sample declarations so far in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Arabic. The Kentucky Equal Justice Center developed a tool for renters to create and send declarations.
- The CDC order postpones the eviction wave, but it does not prevent landlords from continuing to charge rent and late fees nor does it provide rental assistance to cover these costs. We cannot let nearly half of all Black and Latina households receive an eviction or foreclosure notice for the winter holidays. Black, non-Hispanic women and Latinas consistently reported not making last month’s rent or mortgage payments at double-digit rates, demonstrating the need for $100 billion in emergency rental assistance and $75 billion for a homeowner assistance fund to help women and families pay these hefty sums that have accrued during this she-cession.
- The Trump administration is pushing a proposal to let homeless shelters discriminate against trans people and anyone who doesn’t meet a shelter’s stereotype of what a woman looks like. This proposed rule from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would roll back the Obama administration’s Equal Access Rule that requires HUD-funded shelters to provide access to shelter based on someone’s gender identity. This proposal would cause harm against trans people, particularly trans women of color, any day but is especially harmful during a global health crisis. It’s sadly part of Secretary Carson’s string of attacks on trans women and attempts to pit cisgender women survivors against trans women.
- On September 8, a new HUD rule rolling back the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) regulation went into effect. While some spread misinformation by using racial undertones to claim that the 2015 regulation would harm suburban neighborhoods, the reality is that the Trump administration just gutted a critical tool to help jurisdictions and housing authorities combat segregation and barriers to fair housing. The final rule is worse than last spring’s proposed rule, which generated thousands of public comments in opposition. Even the National Association of Realtors denounced this rule and spoke to the importance of fair housing.
- HUD decided to issue another attack on fair housing just before Labor Day weekend, this time posting a final rule gutting disparate impact in housing. Disparate impact has been a critical tool to policies that seem nondiscriminatory but disproportionately harm people of color, women, people with disabilities, and other communities protected under the Fair Housing Act. The final rule will make it harder to challenge policies that penalize and evict survivors of gender-based violence, policies refusing to accept housing vouchers or disability benefits as proof of income, subprime lending policies, and overly restrictive occupancy requirements.
All these attacks on housing tire me and I know it’s hard to push back on every single one. But we have work to do. Here are three actions you can take to help make housing a human right for all women, children, and families:
- Tell your senators to pass robust COVID-19 relief legislation, including $100 billion for emergency rental assistance, $75 billion for a homeowner assistance fund, a nationwide eviction moratorium for all renters, temporary payment relief and affordable repayment options to homeowners facing financial hardship, and $11.5 billion for homelessness assistance.
- Tell Secretary Carson that trans women are women and sex discrimination has no place in housing. Lives are on the line.
- If you haven’t already, fill out the 2020 Census. Census data helps guide the allocation of over $1.5 trillion in federal funds each year, including housing vouchers that help women and families with low incomes access affordable and accessible housing.