Let HUD Give Survivors of Domestic Violence Fewer Protections from Housing Discrimination? Not in This House!
By Elizabeth Skerry, National Women’s Law Center
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Unfortunately, Trump’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has proposed a rule, entitled, “HUD’s Implementation of the Fair Housing Act’s Disparate Impact Standard,” that will harm survivors of domestic violence, most of whom are women. The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, disability, familial status, or national origin. Under the proposed rule, which will make instances of housing discrimination very difficult to prove, survivors will have fewer protections from housing policies and practices that may appear neutral on the surface but have a disparate (disproportionate), discriminatory impact on them. Put another way, the HUD rule is trying to make it harder to reveal the housing discrimination behind the curtain (I love The Wizard of Oz. I’m not a fan of this wicked rule).
For example, under the proposed rule, landlords and housing providers could use a “zero-tolerance for crime” policy to evict domestic violence survivors who call the police to seek protection from their abuser, and deny survivors’ requests for emergency transfers to another housing unit. Survivors would then face enormous hurdles to prove in court that these policies and practices have a disproportionate impact on survivors of gender-based violence. Peeling back that metaphorical curtain becomes critical, and it wouldn’t be easy under the rule’s demands. These cruel and discriminatory policies and practices, if unsuccessfully challenged, would put the safety of domestic violence survivors at risk, discourage reporting of gender-based violence, and increase housing instability and possibly homelessness.
Women account for 80% of domestic violence survivors. Native American women and women of color experience domestic violence at disproportionately high rates. The rate of domestic violence against women with disabilities is three times higher than the rate of domestic violence against women without disabilities. LGBTQ+ individuals are also more likely to experience domestic violence.
The Trump-Pence administration has shown time and time again that it does not respect the rights and safety of marginalized groups. HUD should be making housing safe, affordable, and accessible for everyone, not closing the door to protection under the law. Safety is not a luxury. That’s why we submitted a comment in opposition to this cruel proposed rule. Thank you to everyone who submitted a comment from our platform (more than 10,000 comment submissions!) and the other coalition platforms. We will remain vigilant as this proposed rule goes through the rulemaking process and continue our opposition, so this cruel proposal never goes into effect.