Commentary, Housing, Trump Administration

Housing advocates: New Trump administration rule will promote discrimination

The good people at the National Housing Law Project issued a sobering statement this afternoon about yet another effort by the Trump administration to weaken the nation’s civil rights laws.

Trump Administration Promotes Housing Discrimination with New HUD Rule

In yet another attack on the nation’s civil rights laws, the Trump administration has announced that it will publish a weakened fair housing rule tomorrow. The new disparate impact rule dismantles decades of U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) policy embodied in the 2013 rule and undermines the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Inclusive Communities, which affirmed the disparate impact doctrine under the Fair Housing Act.

“It is difficult to believe that our nation’s federal housing agency is promoting housing discrimination in the middle of a pandemic and related housing crisis,” said Shamus Roller, executive director of the National Housing Law Project. “While the rest of the country is demanding racial justice, the Administration attempts to eliminate one of the nation’s most important civil rights tools and writes the playbook on how to discriminate without getting caught.”

Practically speaking, the new HUD rule would sideline disparate impact as a usable legal tool to tackle systemic housing discrimination. This means that landlords, lenders, and other housing providers would be free to engage in activities that deprive people of color, domestic violence survivors, families with children, people with disabilities, and others of housing opportunities – so long as a discriminatory intent could not be shown.

“The core of the National Housing Law Project’s mission is to promote access to safe, decent, and affordable housing for those who are all too often denied such opportunities. HUD’s attack on disparate impact may make our mission harder, but we resolve to continue this fight,” continued Roller.

Civil rights and housing groups uniformly oppose the rule, which received more than 45,000 comments. The new regulation dismisses the majority of comments opposed, as it did with the new HUD rule that replaced the affirmatively furthering fair housing rule. NHLP and partnering organizations worked to oppose both rules through the #FightforHousingJustice campaign.

The publication of this rule continues the Trump Administration’s abysmal record on fair housing and civil rights. HUD just concluded public comment on the agency’s proposed anti-trans rule that would allow shelters funded with taxpayer dollars to turn away transgender and gender non-conforming people simply because of who they are. The proposed rule would eliminate the Equal Access Rule that ensures transgender people can access HUD-funded shelters that align with their gender iden

COVID-19, Housing, News

Stress, hunger and economic struggles spike for NC families during pandemic

Members of the Child Fatality Task Force took a deeper dive Monday into the impact of COVID-19 on North Carolina families.

What they learned was that since the pandemic struck, employment loss has been more prevalent in households with children and food insecurity a growing problem.

NC Child Policy Director Whitney Tucker

Fifteen percent of households with children surveyed in the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 Household Pulse Survey said they sometimes or often do not have enough food to eat.

Of those households, 71% report children are not eating enough because food is unaffordable.

Renters in households with children are also reporting more late payments since the pandemic hit. More than 231,000 North Carolina renters reported late payments and nearly 64,000 deferring their housing payments in June.

Another troubling sign according to NC Child Policy Director Whitney Tucker is the level of anxiety families are feeling.

“Thirty-one percent of adults in households with kids feel nervous, anxious or on-edge more than four days a week,” explained Tucker.”Fourteen percent said they could not stop or control their worrying. And nearly one in ten reported feeling down, depressed or hopeless nearly every day.”

Tucker said that level of toxic stress presents a clear threat.

“When families have difficulty accessing basic needs, it increases stress levels on care providers and that stress impacts child well-being.”

Experts worry that many children are also not getting wellness check-ups, as parents have either lost their health insurance through work of are afraid to take their children to see a doctor during the pandemic.

Ahead of the upcoming September legislative session, the Child Fatality Task Force approved a motion Monday for the legislature to launch and fund a two-year statewide firearm safe storage initiative.

Even before the added stress of the coronavirus, suicide was the leading cause of death for North Carolina youth ages 15 to 17 and the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 14.

For more highlights from the meeting, click on the slides below:

Source: NC Child

Source: NC Child Fatality Task Force

Commentary, COVID-19, Housing

Evicted or forced to move? You can still vote.

With hundreds of thousands of North Carolina residents on the verge of losing their homes because they can’t pay rent, we must make sure those caught in the middle of a national eviction crisis are not disenfranchised this November.

Losing your home does not mean you should lose your right to vote.

Educating those evicted or facing eviction about their voting rights is critical. North Carolina election officials should inform anyone who has been forced out of their homes of their options for voting in this year’s election.

Transitioned to temporary housing?

In most cases, if you are living in temporary housing, you can use your former address as your voter registration address if you intend to return to that home.

That means if you’ve temporarily moved in with a friend or family member, you can still vote with your old address, whether it’s by absentee or in person.

First, you should confirm your current registration on youcanvote.org/register. 

You have the right to update your registration to reflect your current address if you consider that place your new home.

The bottom line is that your legal voting residence is the place you consider your “permanent” home. Permanent can mean the place you’re staying for the foreseeable future or it can mean the place you intend to return to when your financial situation improves.

You can keep your old registration address even if you’ve moved to another county or state, as long as you plan on returning to the old address. If you don’t plan on returning or are staying in your new location for an indefinite period of time, then you should change your registration to your new location.

Facing homelessness?

Even being homeless should not be a barrier to making your voice heard on Election Day. If you’re homeless, you can still register to vote using the location where you usually spend the night, whether it’s on the streets or in a shelter. Voter registration paper forms provide a map where applicants can mark where they usually sleep. The law also allows you to list a mailing address that is different from the place you spend the night.

Keep in mind that once you do register in a new location, it will make you ineligible to vote at your old location.

Housing insecurity is a real concern during this pandemic and economic crisis. The Aspen Institute estimates that more than 700,000 North Carolina renters could face eviction by the end of September. Nationwide, 23 million people are at risk of eviction.

Know your voting rights

Knowing your rights is essential. This also means making sure you know the upcoming deadlines to register to vote or update your registration. In North Carolina, the deadline to register to vote is Friday, Oct. 9, whether you do it online or in-person. If you’re mailing in your registration, it must be postmarked by Oct. 9.

However, even if you miss that deadline, you can still register in person during the early voting period, which runs from Thursday, Oct. 15, to Saturday, Oct. 31. If you register using this “same-day registration” option, you’ll need to attest to your eligibility and provide proof of residence.

The other important date to keep in mind is that election officials must receive your request for an absentee ballot by Tuesday, Oct. 27. However, because of potential mail delivery delays, you should request a ballot as early as possible and mail it back as soon as you can, or drop it off at an official drop location.

Those who have been evicted or those facing eviction, can find more information about registering to vote and residency requirements at the North Carolina State Board of Elections or visit You Can Vote’s Accessible Voting Guide.

All eligible North Carolina voters have the right to make their voices heard in this year’s election, even if they don’t have a place to call home.

People who have lost their jobs and homes during this economic disaster are facing so many challenges — they should not have to worry about whether they can still vote in the Nov. 3 election.

Kate Fellman is the executive director and founder of You Can Vote.

COVID-19, Housing, News, Policing, public health, race, What's Race Got To Do With It?

Experts: “There has to be a shift in how society functions” in wake of pandemic recovery, racial justice movements

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the U.S. economy — shuttering businesses, eliminating jobs and disrupting everything from education to the nation’s food supply chain. But it has been most devastating to Black Americans, who already face a host of historical economic and social disparities that have been highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement even as the country continues to struggle with the worsening pandemic.

On Tuesday a panel of experts gathered by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, its Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise and the Institute of African American Research held a virtual discussion of the problems disproportionately facing Black people in the current environment — and possible solutions.

“Talk about us living in a very, very unique time,” said Majestic Lane, deputy chief of staff and chief equity officer for the city of Pittsburgh. “We’re living in essentially 1928, 1918 and 1968 all in the same year, which has never quite happened. How we respond to it is really important. For us, in looking at what’s happening in our community, what’s happened in terms of social unrest as a result of state sanctioned violence and what’s happening as a result of COVID and the impacts of the pandemic really are two sides of the same coin.”

Majestic Lane

The American system disrupted by both the pandemic and mass protests over police violence against Black people was designed to work exactly the way it was working, Lane said. In charting a ‘new normal’ the goal should not be to reconstruct that system, he said, but to address long-standing problems in a system that chose winners and losers based on a legacy of racist ideas and practices.

“There has to be a shift in how society functions,” Lane said.

In Pittsburgh, that’s meant examining very basic assumptions about policing, Lane said. The idea that not every 911 call means police should be sent to the scene may be new to some people, he said. But for those who understand how racist policies in everything from education and banking to health care can see how bringing police into over-policed communities every time there is something like a family argument will likely make situations more dangerous.

In the 2021 budget in Pittsburgh, the city is creating an office of Community Health and Safety. Working with non-profits, the community will work to minimize the presence of police in situations where trained social workers, psychologists or addiction specialists might be a better fit. People in the community who are already trusted and invested will also be utilized in getting to the roots of violent incidents, Lane said.

But there are broader structural challenges as well, Lane said — and they’ve been made even more apparent by the pandemic.

Black people in America have been systemically shut out of the building and maintaining of wealth since before the beginnings of the Republic, said Nikitra Bailey, executive vice president with the Center for Responsible Lending. The current health and financial crises are making that more apparent, she said — and call for a response that takes that into account.

Nikitra Bailey

“Our nation is facing a reckoning over structural racism,” Bailey said. “The inequality it has produced is being exacerbated by the coronavirus. The COVID-19 pandemic is both a profound public health crisis and an equally profound economic crisis. The virus has devastated families across the nation and has fallen disproportionately on Black families.”

“Systemic discrimination in the housing sector left Black families more vulnerable going into the 2008 housing crisis,” Bailey said. “And that crisis and the response to it left them worse off. This crisis has likewise hit Black families hardest again. And the response so far is not equitable nor is it sufficient.”

The COVID-19 crisis threatens to become a foreclosure crisis in which the Black community has not had the same opportunity to build up home ownership and home equity, Bailey said. They didn’t have the same economic cushion many white families did at the beginning of the pandemic.  That’s due to historical inequities, like Black families being shut out of New Deal programs that gave access to federally supported credit. Those programs led to an explosion of white homeownership, a swelling middle class and generational wealth for white families. Only about 2 percent of the loans available in that period benefitted Black families, she said.

Black families were making ground after the historic homeownership lows of the Great Recession, Bailey said — with Black homeownership reaching 44 percent. But the current COVID-related economic crisis means a tightening in the mortgage market that is requiring much higher down payments and higher credit scores for families to qualify for loans. That threatens to erase the gains of Black homeowners in the country, Bailey said.

Because of the historic and current-day process of racial redlining, most Black communities don’t have as much home equity, Bailey said — something many white homeowners can use to withstand tough economic periods.

For Black homeowners and Black renters (a disproportionately large population), the pandemic is leading to greater dangers.

“There are reports that one in five renters are saying they missed or deferred a rental payment in June, “We know 31 percent of Black renters are reporting this as well, which is twice the rate of white renters. And 13 percent of homeowners overall are saying they’ve needed to defer a mortgage payment and again 23 percent said they missed or deferred their payment, which is twice the rate of white homeowners.”

Congress needs to react accordingly, Bailey said. The CARES act had a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, she said, but that expired last week. With around 23 million families likely to fall behind on their rent, Black families will be hardest hit.

Housing is an important pillar of the overall economy, Bailey said — critical not just to those who are most impacted, but to the entire nation.

“We need the House’s bill, the HEROES act, to be passed in the Senate and we need the President to sign it immediately,” Bailey said. “There is $100 billion of rental assistance in the HEROES act. If that legislation moves, we know that this crisis can be averted. We also need the HEROES provisions around homeownership protection. There’s $75 billion in homeownership protections. We also need those protections to be enacted.”

But beyond those immediate treatments for immediate ills, Bailey said, there needs to be movement on longstanding inequities and systemic racism.

“What we need is a federally guaranteed restorative justice program,” Bailey said, whereby Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac take proactive action to increase Black homeownership and we enforce fair housing and fair lending laws already on the books.

“We have really effective tools in place,” Bailey said. “If we use them we can root out that discrimination that is dragging down the economy overall.”

Housing, News

New report: U.S. affordable rental housing stock is “deeply inadequate”

It comes as no surprise to anyone who’s tried (or has a loved one who’s tried) to rent an apartment in recent years, but a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition makes clear once again that the U.S. has a dire shortage of affordable rental housing. This is from the introduction to the Coalition’s new report: “The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes”:

 

Each year, NLIHC examines the American Community Survey (ACS) to determine the availability of rental homes affordable to extremely low-income households – those with incomes at or below the poverty line or 30% of the area median income (AMI), whichever is greater – and other income groups (Definitions). This annual report provides information on affordable housing for the U.S., each state plus the District of Columbia (DC), and the largest metropolitan areas. This year’s key findings include:

  • 10.9 million renter households with extremely low incomes account for 25% of all renter households and 8% of all U.S. households.
  • Extremely low-income renters in the U.S. face a shortage of 7 million affordable and available rental homes. Only 36 affordable and available homes exist for every 100 extremely low-income renter households.
  • Seventy-one percent (7.7 million) of the nation’s 10.9 million extremely low-income renter households are severely housing cost-burdened, spending more than half of their incomes on rent and utilities. They account for almost 72% of all severely cost-burdened renters in the U.S.
  • Extremely low-income renters are much more likely to be severely housing cost-burdened than other income groups. Thirty-three percent of very low-income, eight percent of low-income, and two percent of middle-income renters are severely cost-burdened.
  • Extremely low-income renters are more likely than other renters to be seniors or people with disabilities. Forty-six percent of extremely low-income renter households are seniors or disabled, and another 44% are in the labor force, in school, or single-adult caregivers.
  • People of color are more likely than white people to be extremely low-income renters. Twenty percent of Black households, 17% of American Indian or Alaska Native households, 15% of Hispanic households, and 10% of Asian households are extremely low-income renters.Only 6% of white non-Hispanic households are extremely low-income renters.
  • Black households account for 12% of all households in the United States and 19% of all renters, but they account for 26% of all renter households with extremely low incomes. Likewise, Hispanic households account for 12% of all households, 19% of all renter households, and 21% of all renter households with extremely low incomes.
  • No state has an adequate supply of affordable and available homes for extremely low-income renters. The current relative supply ranges from 18 affordable and available homes for every 100 extremely low-income renter households in Nevada to 62 in West Virginia.
  • The shortage of affordable homes ranges from 8,200 in Wyoming to nearly one million in California.

The report calls for significant new investments in public programs, including the national Housing Trust Fund, Housing Choice Vouchers, and public housing to expand the supply of affordable homes. It urges Congress to fund capital improvements for the preservation of existing affordable homes, to expand and reform the Low Income Housing Tax Credit to better serve the lowest-income families, to introduce a deeply-targeted renters’ tax credit, and to establish a National Housing Stabilization Fund to provide short-term assistance to households facing eviction or homelessness.

Click here to explore the full report and here for a series of useful infographics.