Friday, June 13, 2014
From our friends at the Poverty and Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) in D.C.:
If you have 20 minutes to spend contacting your Senators' offices this week on three important housing and civil rights issues, it will be time well spent:
1. By just one vote, the House passed an amendment to the HUD appropriations bill (proposed by Rep Aaron Schock, R-IL) that would prohibit rents for Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher families above 120% of the area-wide "fair market rent" (FMR). This amendment would exclude low income voucher families from many low poverty communities in our most segregated metro regions. The long-standing HUD procedure for higher "exception payment standards" has careful controls in place and has worked very well where it is needed to give families access to higher opportunity communities.
2. Less surprisingly, the House passed an amendment (Rep Paul Gosar, R-AZ) to bar funding for the anticipated "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing" (AFFH) Final Rule, which was developed to help state and local jurisdictions to consider issues of racial and economic segregation in their planning process and housing and community development spending. The proposed AFFH rule clarifies the racial integration requirements of the 1968 Fair Housing Act in a way that has drawn support from a wide spectrum of housing advocates and housing industry groups. But in part because of the rhetoric of the Westchester County Executive (the county continues to be in non-compliance with an ongoing fair housing court order), the proposed regulation has emerged as a popular theme for conservative attacks on HUD. See the House amendment here.
3. Finally, the House HUD budget for the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity is insufficient for that division to handle the anticipated work of enforcing the new AFFH rule - indeed, it is not even sufficient to cover the fair housing division's current enforcement work (which has expanded in the Obama Administration - see our 2013 report). Please urge your senators to increase this budget line item!
Your Senators need to hear how important these issues are - and to watch out for similar amendments to the Senate budget bill (restrictions on exception rents for voucher families and attacks on the AFFH rule). The HUD budget bill will be taken up by the Senate sometime next week. Contact information for your senators can be found here or you can just call 877-210-5351 and ask to be connected to your senator's office (when you're connected you can make a further request to talk to the staff person handling housing appropriations). If you need more information on Senate staff, talking points, etc, please email Ebony Gayles at PRRAC or Jorge Soto at NFHA.