This piece is authored by Arianna Cook-Thajudeen, Legal Fellow at the National Housing Law Project.
On May 10, 2019, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released a proposed rule titled “Housing and Community Development Act of 1980: Verification of Eligible Status.” The rule would significantly change HUD’s regulations by further restricting eligibility for federal housing assistance based on immigration status.
The proposed rule is problematic for a couple of significant reasons:
- It will effectively evict 25,000 immigrant families from their homes, including over 55,000 children—mostly U.S. citizens—who are eligible for housing assistance under federal law.
- The rule would also impose new documentation requirements for U.S. citizens and noncitizens 62 years old or older receiving or applying for housing assistance. Under these new documentation requirements, millions of citizens and the elderly could end up homeless if they are unable to provide documentation of their citizenship and immigration status within certain timeframes.
What is the rule proposing?
The proposed rule prohibits “mixed-status” families from living in units subsidized by federal housing programs that are subject to immigration status restrictions. These programs include public housing and Section 8. Mixed-status families are households comprised of members who have eligible and ineligible immigration statuses as defined in Section 214 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1980 (“Section 214”). (Importantly, an immigrant can have legal status and be ineligible for federal housing assistance.) Currently, under federal law, these families are permitted to live together in a subsidized unit, so long as there is at least one U.S. citizen or eligible immigrant living in the unit.
Fact vs. Fiction
Although the Secretary of HUD has stated that the rule will help “legitimate American citizens” secure housing, the fact is that 66.9% of people in mixed-status families are already U.S. citizens, nearly half of whom are likely to lose their homes if the rule is finalized. Not only does the proposed rule fail to achieve its stated goal, according to HUD, it will lead to $437 million in added costs, and could result in a reduction in the “quantity and quality of assisted housing” for everyone.
It is also important to note that mixed-status families receive housing assistance on a prorated basis—where the amount of the housing subsidy for the household is decreased to account for family members with ineligible immigration status. That is, the subsidy is based on the portion of eligible household members in the unit. Existing laws already guarantee that only U.S. citizens and eligible immigrants can receive these housing subsidies.
What can I do to help?
Fight back by submitting comments to HUD explaining why this rule would have a catastrophic impact on homelessness. The deadline to submit comments is July 9, 2019.
Individuals can submit comments in English and Spanish via the campaign website, www.keep-families-together.org. The website’s resources page also includes a comment template that organizations can modify and adapt to submit on their own at www.regulations.gov (Docket ID: HUD-2019-0044).
You can also reach out to your Members of Congress to urge them to push back against the proposed rule. Many Representatives and Senators have already spoken out against the rule. Please visit the Congressional Sign-Ons list to see if your members have taken action. If you do not see your members, please contact them through the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to voice their opposition to this proposed rule.
Let’s all pull together to keep families housed!
If you have questions, or would like additional information, please contact Arianna Cook-Thajudeen, NHLP Legal Fellow, at firstname.lastname@example.org.