As U.S. Endures Precarious Housing Crisis, Rep. Peters Proposes Increased Access to Affordable Housing for Millions of Americans
June 28, 2022
WASHINGTON D.C. – Last week, Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced the Fair Housing Improvement Act of 2022. This legislation would add ‘source of income’ and ‘veteran status’ to the current list of protected classes under the Fair Housing Act, which provides protection from discrimination when people rent or buy a home, get a mortgage, seek housing assistance, or engage in other housing-related activities.
The Fair Housing Improvement Act would protect more families and individuals who earn lawful sources of income from discrimination. These sources of income include housing choice vouchers, benefits received through Social Security, income received by a court order, and payment from a trust or guardian, among others. In 2018, Rep. Peters supported an ordinance passed by the City of San Diego to prohibit source of income discrimination. By adding ‘veteran status’ as a protected class, the Fair Housing Improvement Act also protects veterans who rely on HUD-VASH vouchers, which help homeless veterans and their families find and sustain permanent housing.
“Millions of Americans can attest to the housing crisis in our country with personal stories of loss, anxiety and adversity when finding and securing permanent housing,” said Rep. Peters. “We cannot allow landlords’ refusals to accept vouchers get in the way of Americans’ having a safe roof over their heads. With the leadership of Senator Kaine, this bill is especially critical to San Diego’s veterans who seek housing after transitioning to civilian life and families who cannot keep up with high costs of rent.”
Low-income families across the country face many barriers in their search for safe and affordable housing. The Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program assists families who cannot afford rent on their own. Since Section 8 resources are stretched thin, thousands of families are on long waitlists for the program. Some families are denied a rental unit simply because a landlord refuses to accept rental assistance. In tight housing markets, refusals and long wait times may lead to applicants losing their voucher altogether. Refusing to accept vouchers can often serve as a proxy for discrimination against a protected class.
“I applaud Senator Kaine and Representative Peters for introducing this important legislation to help combat housing discrimination, segregation, and inequality,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel. “Where you live has an enormous impact on the opportunities we have in life – everything from educational attainment to lifetime earnings, better health, and life expectancy. For too long, discrimination has prevented low-income people from living in neighborhoods of their choice – including communities with jobs that pay decent wages, good schools, healthcare, and transportation – simply because they rely on federal housing benefits to make ends meet. This legislation is an important step towards righting this wrong.”
“All too often, source of income discrimination prevents low-income families from accessing neighborhoods of their choosing, which perpetuates economic and racial segregation and seriously harms upward mobility for young children,” said Mike Koprowski, National Director of the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign. “Imagine going to a landlord and inquiring: ‘I’d like to live here. It would be a better life for my family. I can afford the asked rent with my voucher. You have units available. It’s a stable lawful source of income, and I meet all the other qualifications of tenancy.’ And you are simply told ‘no’ just because you have a voucher. It’s not right, and I commend Senator Kaine and Representative Peters for proposing this important legislation.”
“The American dream is one in which all have access to a safe place to call home—regardless of gender, income level, race, or disability. We know that stable, affordable housing is associated with improved physical and mental health, increased food security, and better educational opportunities. That's why the Fair Housing Improvement Act is so vital, because by helping the unhoused among us, it will make all of us stronger, healthier, and more secure," said Meredith Owen, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Church World Service. "We applaud Senator Kaine and Representative Peters for reintroducing this legislation and his efforts to make this type of security a reality for all. We urge Congress to join with him and provide a more certain future for the thousands of Americans searching for hope.”
"We commend Senator Kaine and Representative Peters for introducing legislation that will go a long way in addressing discrimination in housing, which has existed for far too long in this country," said Luis Guardia, president of the Food Research & Action Center. "Anti-hunger advocates know well the balancing act many families with low-incomes face in robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul: paying for food or paying for a roof over their head. No one should be forced to choose between these basic needs."
“For far too long, women—especially Black women—have struggled financially, mentally, and physically as a result of systemic barriers preventing them from secure, accessible, and affordable housing,” said Melissa Boteach, Vice President of Income Security and Child Care/Early Learning at the National Women’s Law Center. “Even when women can access rental assistance, they still face opposition from landlords who refuse to accept federal housing vouchers. We applaud Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) for introducing the Fair Housing Improvement Act, which creates a federal ban on source of income discrimination for renters. If enacted, this legislation would afford more women the opportunity to secure stable housing, which, in turn, will directly contribute to better health, education, and financial outcomes.”
"We support this legislation to protect renters from housing discrimination. Too often, landlords refuse to rent to low-income families using vouchers based on income and veterans. People who stepped up to serve their country as well as people using vouchers must be protected from discrimination,” stated Liz Seaton, Policy Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund. “Housing vouchers are a legal, important and valuable source of income. When landlords deny people who are veterans or voucher holders homes, it may prevent financial opportunities, access to education, and a good quality of life. The worst impacts, of course, fall on women, people of color, those living with disabilities, LGBTQ people and families, and more."