Search Results for: Elayne Weiss

Hurricane Housing Recovery Updates, Tuesday, October 10, 2017

HURRICANE HOUSING RECOVERY COALITION

On October 10, the Hurricane Housing Recovery Coalition held a congressional briefing on our recommendations for a just, equitable and complete housing recovery from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Chrishelle Palay (Texas Housers), Suzanne Cabrera (Florida Housing Coalition), Patrick Sheridan (Volunteers of America) and Chandra Crawford (NAEH) joined me on a panel to share immediate needs in impacted communities, housing recovery recommendations for Congress and lessons learned from previous disasters. We had very good turnout – over 70 people in attendance, including nearly 60 congressional offices – and an excellent reception to the presentations and recommendations. Thanks to our national partners who showed up to hear from and support local leaders, including colleagues from NFHA, PolicyLink, NRDC, NDRN, Nat’l Coalition for the Homeless, Enterprise, HPN, SAHF and Catholic Charities.

Chrishelle, Suzanne, Pat and Chandra spent the rest of the day, together with Sarah Mickelson and Elayne Weiss of NLIHC, meeting with congressional delegation staff and staff from Appropriations and House Financial Services Committee staff. We’ll share key takeaways and next steps on this week’s call. Many thanks to Chrishelle and Suzanne for traveling to DC, and to them and all the speakers for taking time out of their busy schedules to share their important work with leaders on the Hill.

Congressional Briefing Panel

From left to right: Chandra Crawford, National Alliance to End Homelessness, speaking on lessons learned after Hurricane Katrina; Suzanne Cabrera, Florida Housing Coalition; Chrishelle Palay, Texas Low Income Housing Information Service (Texas Housers); Pat Sheridan,Volunteers of America, speaking on housing needs in Puerto Rico; & Diane Yentel, President and CEO, National Low Income Housing Coalition

Congressional Briefing Panel 3Congressional Briefing Panel 4

CONGRESS

Last week the Texas congressional delegation sent a request to appropriators for an additional $18.7 billion in disaster recovery funding (on top of the recent White House request for $29.3 billion), including $7 billion in CDBG-DR. Over the weekend, the Governor of Puerto Rico sent a letter to appropriators requesting an additional $4.6 billion, including $3.2 billion in CDBG-DR. The Florida delegation (28 out of 29) has requested an additional $26.9 billion, including $7 billion in CDBG-DR. Today, the White House sent Congress an additional disaster spending request: $5B to assist Puerto Rico with disaster recovery. The House may take up a supplemental spending bill this week, but it’s unclear how many of these requests they’ll include in their bill. They are very likely to add some of these additional requests to the original White House request, along with funding to assist with recovery from the devastating wildfires in California.


HURRICANE MARIA

FEMA

Puerto Rico

By the Numbers: (as of 10/10)

  • 13,836 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $6,922,008 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $3,185 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $6,918,823 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $37,005,952 Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated** all of which are for Emergency Work (Categories A-B)

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

**Funds made available to the State via electronic transfer following FEMA’s final review and approval of Public Assistance projects.

Free Meals. The Puerto Rico Department of Education is managing 18 sites that serve free breakfast and lunch seven days a week for both students and other survivors.

U.S. Virgin Islands

 By the Numbers: (unchanged from 10/2)

  • $10,510,000 Emergency Work (Categories A-B) dollars obligated**

**Funds made available to the State via electronic transfer following FEMA’s final review and approval of Public Assistance projects.

  • Debris Removal. FEMA is providing more than $10 million in expedited funding to support clean up and remove debris in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Communications Measures. The Department of Defense’s Civil Authorities Information Support Element (CAISE) is helping recovery agencies get vital information to survivors who lack electricity or access to cell towers. CAISE has disseminated messages about registering with FEMA, locating supply stations, and finding Wi-Fi hotspots.

HURRICANE IRMA

 FEMA

 Florida

 By the Numbers: (as of 10/10)

  • 681,295 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $731,095,971 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $487,127,326 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $243,968,645 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

  • November 9 deadline for Individual Assistance. Homeowners and renters who suffered damage as a result of Hurricane Irma have until November 9 to register with FEMA for possible federal disaster assistance.
  • November 5 deadline for Public Assistance. The Florida Division of Emergency Management requests state, local, or tribal governments and certain nonprofit organizations that experienced damage from Hurricane Irma submit their requests for reimbursement by November 5. Requests received by November 5 will be forwarded to FEMA on or before FEMA’s November 10 deadline.
  • Floodplain or historic property restoration activities. FEMA posted an initial public notice concerning activities that may affect historic properties, activities that are located in or affect wetland areas or the 100-year floodplain, and critical actions within the 500-year floodplain.
    • Presidential Executive Orders 11988 and 11990 require that all federal actions in or affecting floodplains or wetlands be reviewed for opportunities to relocate, and be evaluated for social, economic, historical, environmental, legal, and safety considerations. Where there is no opportunity to relocate, FEMA is required to undertake a detailed review to determine measures that can be taken to minimize future damage. The notice sets out four criteria that must be met to determine that there are no alternatives to restoration in the floodplain. The public is invited to participate in the process of identifying alternatives and analyzing their impacts.
    • Housing Individual Assistance (IA) actions may adversely affect a floodplain or wetland, or may result in continuing vulnerability to floods. Actions may include repair, restoration, or construction of housing, purchase and placement of travel trailers or manufactured housing units or repair of structures as minimum protective measures. This is the only public notice concerning these actions.
  • The National Historic Preservation Act requires federal agencies to take into account the effects of their actions on historic properties. Actions or activities affecting buildings, structures, districts, or objects 50 years or older or that affect archeological sites or undisturbed ground will require further review to determine whether the property is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (Register). If the property is determined to be eligible for the Register, and FEMA’s actions will adversely affect it, FEMA will provide additional notices. For historic properties not adversely affected by FEMA’s actions, this will be the only notice.
  • Home Inspections. Home Inspections are an important part of FEMA assessing the type and amount of assistance survivors receive. The estimated wait time for a traditional is thirty days, so FEMA has eliminated some inspections in an effort to streamline the process. This includes those who have no real or personal property damage, but their home is either inaccessible or their essential utilities are temporarily unavailable, as well as those who only have flood damage and already have flood insurance that will cover the damage. FEMA has also provided an FAQ page for those who do need to schedule an inspection.

Georgia

By the Numbers: (as of 10/5)

  • 7,942 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $9,501,024 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $6,657,633 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $2,843,391 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.


HURRICANE HARVEY

FEMA

By the Numbers: (as of 10/10)

  • 319,363 Individual Assistance (IA) applications approved*
  • $1,040,581,528 Individual & Household Program (IHP) approved*
  • $794,012,800 Housing Assistance (HA) approved*
  • $246,568,727 Other Needs Assistance (ONA) approved*
  • $327,886,760 Public Assistance Grants (PA) obligated** all of which are for Emergency Work (Categories A-B)

*Assistance dollars approved but not necessarily disbursed.

**Funds made available to the State via electronic transfer following FEMA’s final review and approval of Public Assistance projects.

  • Extension of TSA. The Transitional Sheltering Assistance program (TSA), which provides funding for survivors to stay at a hotel while searching for housing, has been extended to October 24. The previous deadline was October 10.
  • Public Infrastructure Reimbursement. Texas governmental jurisdictions and nonprofit organizations have until 5 pm on October 31 to submit requests for reimbursement for Hurricane Harvey expenses. Reimbursements are for disaster-related costs for emergency response, debris removal, and permanent work, including repairs or replacements of schools, roads, and other public infrastructure.

 Local Perspectives

  • Texas Organizations’ Letter to Congress. The Texas Low Income Housing Information Service and Texas Appleseed sent a letter to Texas’s congressional delegation in response to a September 21 letter from the delegation to HUD Secretary Ben Carson. The organizations oppose:
    1. Lowering the CDBG programs’ requirement that 70% of the funds benefit low and moderate income households;
    2. Shortening the period for public review of and comment on a state’s CDBG-DR Action Plan from 30 days to seven days; and
    3. Allowing “maximum flexibility” regarding use of CDBG-DR funds among housing, infrastructure, and mitigation without data indicating which activities have the greatest need.
  • D-SNAP Burdensome for Disabled. Lone Star Legal Aid attorneys have contacted the office of Governor Greg Abbott regarding access to D-SNAP application sites for individuals with disabilities. Limited times and locations with no alternative forms of application are unduly burdensome for this community as they cannot always wait in long lines for hours on end. Attorneys have also found that public outreach about the D-SNAP process has been inadequate, that most people at shelters and disaster recovery centers have never heard of D-SNAP.
  • Location of Debris Management Sites. Lone Star Legal Aid reports that Debris Management Site (DMS) has opened near a low-income minority neighborhood in Port Arthur, despite regulations requiring DMS to not be located in areas that could cause harm to schools or neighborhoods, or disrupt local business. Executive Order 12898 from 1994 also requires localities receiving federal funds from a source such as FEMA to evaluate its actions for disproportionately high and adverse effects on minority or low income populations and find ways to avoid or minimize adverse impacts. The site has been operating for over a month, and attorneys at Lone Star Legal Aid have demanded the City of Port Arthur close the DMS as soon as possible.

Mr. President, Our Communities Cannot Afford Further Cuts to HUD

By Elayne Weiss, Senior Policy Analyst

“Every action I take, I will ask myself: does this make life better for young Americans in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Ferguson who have as much of a right to live out their dreams as any other child in America?” Those were words stated by then-candidate Donald Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Well, Mr. President, your administration’s proposal to cut HUD’s budget by $7.7 billion will do anything but that.

While President Donald Trump is expected to send Congress a high-level budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 next week, an overview of early drafts by the Washington Post shows the severity of cuts under consideration. Multiple sources confirm that the administration could slash HUD’s budget by as much as $7.7 billion from FY17 funding levels, a 16% cut.

Specifically, the leaked HUD budget would:

  • Cut funding for public housing repairs by $1.3 billion or 68%.
  • Cut funding for Housing Choice Vouchers by $980 million, adjusted for inflation. Such a cut translates to 200,000 vouchers lost.
  • Cut funding that would result in approximately 10,000 homes for seniors and 6,000 homes for people with disabilities being lost.
  • Cut funding for Native American communities—that have some of the worst housing and most dire housing needs in America—by a 25% or $150 million.
  • Eliminate the Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG), the HOME Investment Partnerships program (HOME), the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, and the Self-Help Housing Opportunity Program (SHOP).

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With a national shortage of 7.4 million homes affordable and available to the lowest income people in the country, these cuts are not only unacceptable—they are downright dangerous. Such cuts would likely lead to more families facing eviction and living on the streets instead of having a warm, stable and affordable home—a place where their children can play and do their homework, where seniors can live out their golden years, or where people with disabilities don’t have to worry about accessibility issues.

In the Chicago metro area, the city Mr. Trump often speaks of, there is a shortage of 264,000 homes that are affordable and available to the lowest income renters. That means for every 100 extremely low income renter households, there are only 26 homes that are affordable and available to them. Seventy-six percent of these lowest income renters in Chicago spend more than half of their income on rent, leaving them one emergency away from homelessness.

The proposed cuts would seriously exacerbate this shortage. They would allow public housing properties, which are chronically underfunded, to fall further into disrepair, putting at risk the homes of more than 1 million residents who are often elderly, have a disability, or both.

People who could lose the rental assistance they receive from HUD, like Housing Choice Vouchers, would have to pay even more of their limited income on rent. As a result, they would have fewer resources to spend on other basic essentials, like food, healthcare, and education—the very things that help kids reach their full potential.

And by eliminating block grant resources for community development and housing production, the Trump budget would undermine the ability for states and communities to invest in their communities, address their housing shortage, and meet other pressing needs.

So again, how does a $7.7 billion cut to the HUD, which has lifted four million people out of poverty—including 1.5 million children—make life better for kids growing up in Chicago or any other community in the U.S.?

If anything, we should be increasing federal investments in affordable housing.

Such investments provide families and communities with the resources they need to thrive. Access to affordable housing has wide-ranging, positive impacts. Evidence-based research has shown that when families have stable, decent, and accessible homes that they can afford, they are better able to find employment, achieve economic mobility, perform better in school, and maintain improved health. Increasing and preserving access to affordable housing in areas of opportunity helps families climb the economic ladder, leading to greater community development and bolstering economic productivity and job creation.

In contrast, evidence has also shown that people, especially children, experience poor outcomes in many areas of their lives when they experience homelessness and housing instability.

It’s time for advocates to speak out against these cuts by contacting their members of Congress. Tell your lawmakers any further cuts to HUD are unacceptable and will hurt the very people they represent.

The NLIHC-led Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding (CHCDF) will be hosting a webinar on March 20* to discuss the proposed budget cuts and ways to effectively engage lawmakers.  We hope you’ll join!


Note: The March 20 presentation is available at: http://nlihc.org/events/webinars

Housing and the Election Webinar: 5 Ways You Can Take Action

By Sarah Mickelson, NLIHC Director of Public Policy

Over the next few months, affordable housing and community development organizations have an opportunity to influence a number of critical issues before Congress and to help break through the noise of the presidential campaigns to make affordable housing an election issue.

Join us for a discussion with NLIHC staff on our Summer/Fall Issues Guide and Sample Candidate Questionnaire. On the webinar, we’ll review five ways you can take action between now and the November elections to advocate for the issues that are most important to your mission, the people you serve, and your community.

Speakers include:

  • Sarah Mickelson, Public Policy Director
  • Elayne Weiss, Senior Policy Analyst
  • Joseph Lindstrom, Senior Organizer for Housing Advocacy

For more information and best practices on how nonprofit organizations and individuals can lobby their elected officials, see Lobbying: Individual and 501(c)(3) Organizations in NLIHC’s 2016 Advocates’ Guide.

The Housing & the Election webinar was presented on September 7 and can be viewed here: http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/Webinar_5WaysToTakeAction_090716.pdf 

 

House Republicans Release Anti-Poverty Agenda

paulBy Elayne Weiss, Policy Analyst

Today, Speaker Ryan and the Republican Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity, and Upward Mobility released an anti-poverty agenda. In developing the agenda, the Task Force identified four key principles that guided their work. These included conditioning the provision of welfare benefits on work, providing incentives to move people from welfare to work, measuring results, and focusing support on people with the greatest need. Below we detail some of the recommendations the Task Force made, especially those pertaining to housing.

Work Requirements

The Task Force recommends that work-capable welfare recipients be required to work or preparing for work to receive benefits under federal safety-net programs. To encourage work among people receiving federal housing assistance, the Task Force also recommends aligning housing benefits with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program for all work-capable residents who are living in Public Housing or in project-based Section 8 housing or who have received a Housing Choice Voucher. Currently, all states impose participation requirements in work-related activities on most adults who receive TANF assistance.

The Task Force claims that HUD programs lack requirements that encourage self-sufficiency, contributing “to rental assistance becoming more expensive and waiting lists growing larger each year as current recipients stay longer.” Under the Task Force’s proposal, work-capable individuals receiving housing assistance would be expected to work or prepare to work by developing self-sufficiency plans with a TANF case worker, who will also assist them in preparing for working, such as helping arrange child care, transportation and other necessities.

The Task Force proposes that local jurisdictions administering housing assistance should provide program guidance in the same way states provide guidance for the TANF program, such as mandating work requirements, educational training, and time limits for benefits “to encourage non-working work-capable recipients to move towards jobs, careers, and economic independence.”

While the Task Force proposes linking affordable housing to the TANF program, it is important to note that the welfare reform of the 1990s not only didn’t improve poverty levels, but also sunk some families into deeper poverty. TANF, created during that reform, continues to fall short in helping people break the cycle of poverty. In fact, the majority of people who are eligible for TANF benefits do not receive them. In 2012, only 32.4% of eligible families received assistance from the TANF program, while recent research indicates that some of the poorest families are not receiving assistance. Poor families that are not receiving TANF benefits include those that have been sanctioned for not complying with program requirements, or have reached their state’s time limit. Studies have found that families that lost their TANF benefits through sanctions are more likely than other families to include a person with a disability that can hinder his or her ability to find or maintain employment.

Moreover, we have also seen work requirements and time limits imposed in HUD’s Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration without the necessary evaluation to see if these requirements help low income residents increase earnings or if they in fact create negative outcomes. Now, with the recent expansion of the MTW program to an additional 100 public housing agencies (PHAs), we have an opportunity to evaluate how such policies impact low public housing residents. Unlike the first iteration of the program, the expansion will be overseen by a research advisory committee to ensure the demonstrations are evaluated with rigorous research protocols, including quantitative analysis and comparisons to control groups. This new evaluation requirement goes hand in hand with the Task Force’s focus on funding programs based on performance outcomes. To that point, lawmakers should hold off on mandating work requirements for recipients of housing assistance until that research is conducted to better understand the potential impact such requirements might have.

Increasing Flexibility

The Task Force proposes allowing states to test new ways of providing welfare benefits to achieve desired outcomes. When states choose to exercise such flexibility, any demonstration conducted must be paired with an evaluation to determine its efficacy in helping people rise out of poverty.

Creating Individual Choice in Housing Assistance

The Task Force recognizes that many households receiving housing assistance face significant barriers when trying to move to the neighborhood of their choice. We agree with their recommendation to reform how PHAs administer housing assistance vouchers to enhance their portability and “to encourage recipients to move to areas with more affordable housing, education, or job opportunities.”

Currently, 2,400 housing agencies administer the nation’s two million housing choice vouchers. Of these 2,400 agencies, 58% administer fewer than 400 vouchers. These small housing agencies exist in rural, suburban, and urban markets. In urban markets, there are 558 housing agencies administering vouchers in the nation’s 49 most populated metro areas.

Consolidation of the administration of vouchers would result in administrative cost savings, bring significant benefits to voucher holders and people with low incomes in need of housing vouchers, and reduce HUD’s oversight costs.

The Task Force also recommends moving beyond the public housing model towards new housing models “that harness the abilities of non-profits and other cost-effective service providers.” While NLIHC believes that public housing is a critical housing resource for people of modest means, we recognize that in this unstable federal budget environment, developers can no longer count on federal subsidies to support projects serving extremely low income (ELI) households, those earning less than 30% of the area median income (AMI). The national Housing Trust Fund (HTF), as well as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and Rental Assistance Demonstration programs, offer ideal opportunities to finance creation and preservation of affordable housing through the leveraging of private dollars.

Finally, we were heartened to see the Task Force propose efforts to encourage greater engagement of public housing residents in the operation and management of their residence. NLIHC has long advocated for greater resident engagement and participation. Public housing residents have important personal perspectives about the impact of established and emerging housing policies on their homes and communities. Consequently, they have good ideas about how their housing developments should be managed. Resident participation in all aspects of housing management is critical to the long-term success of federal housing programs.

Reducing Duplication

The Task Force recommends consolidating the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service rental assistance program into HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher program, since they have “almost identical goals”. The Task Force believes that through consolidation, lawmakers can simplify the delivery of services for seamlessness, consistency and fairness.

Measuring Results

The Task Force emphasizes that safety net programs should only be funded if they are proven to be effective through rigorous evaluation and data, and believes taxpayer dollars have been wasted on programs that do not achieve their stated purpose. The Task Force makes several recommendations for funding programs based on evidence-based policymaking:

  • Tiered-Funding Structures. Programs will first be tested on a smaller scale, and if effective, will later be scaled up.
  • Use Funding Models that Only Pay Based on Outcomes. The proposal recommends using a pay-for-success or social-impact financing model, in which an organization or intermediary only receives payment from the government if the agreed upon outcome is achieved by a program.
  • Program Evaluation to Determine Funding Decisions. Every social program would be evaluated to determine its effectiveness. To do so, the Task Force recommends redirecting program funding towards evaluations or data collection.
  • Expand the Availability of Data and Information. The proposal recommends that policymakers have access to high-quality data to ensure they can make the best decisions as to what programs should be funded.

Over the coming weeks, Speaker Ryan and the Task Force will release 5 more pillars of their policy proposal “to get America back on track”, some of which are expected to include concrete legislative proposals that may be moved by relevant committees. While we still don’t know whether House Republicans will move legislation incorporating the Task Force’s housing recommendations, we will continue to monitor and track any new legislative proposals that do so to ensure ELI families receiving housing assistance do not lose their safety net.

Senate Passes THUD Bill, As Advocates Mobilize to Defeat Amendment Attacking Fair Housing

United States Capitol Building

West side view of the United States Capitol building.

By Elayne Weiss, Policy Analyst

After days of debate, the Senate passed yesterday a spending package that included the THUD appropriations bill by a vote of 89 to 9.

NLIHC supported passage of the bill since it includes no significant funding cuts and will ensure households currently served by HUD programs will continue to receive assistance.

The Senate THUD bill will:

  • Provide sufficient funding to renew existing project-based rental assistance contracts;
  • Allocate enough funds to renew existing Housing Choice Vouchers and provide additional funds for new vouchers targeted to the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program and Family Unification Program;
  • Increase funding for public housing;
  • Provide new resources to homeless assistance programs, including targeted funds to address youth homelessness;
  • Level fund the HOME Investment Partnerships program, the Community Development Block Grant program, and the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS program;
  • Increase funding for the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program and the Section 811 Housing for People with Disabilities program; and
  • Provide more resources to the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes’ grants.

To view NLIHC’s updated budget chart, which further details the funding levels in the bill, click here.

As the Senate considered the bill, housing and civil rights advocates had to spring into action when Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Richard Shelby (R-AL), and David Vitter (R-LA) filed an amendment attacking the Fair Housing Act. Their amendment would prohibit HUD from implementing the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule and its assessment tool, as they claim the rule turns HUD into a national zoning board with the power to overturn or rewrite local zoning laws in communities across America.

However, we know that’s not true. We know that the AFFH rule will provide states and local governments with the guidance and data they need to help them more fairly and effectively invest federal funds in their communities. We know that this rule imposes no new obligations; it simply clarifies how communities can comply with existing obligations and provides tools to help them live up to the commitment that they’ve already made. Moreover, the rule affirms localities maintain control in developing and implementing solutions for removing barriers to fair housing.

NLIHC and our members, including our state partners, made calls, sent letters, and blasted action alerts in an effort to defeat the amendment. All that hard work paid off when senators opposing the amendment eked out the 60 votes needed to set the amendment aside, defeating efforts to have it included in the THUD bill. The final vote was 60 to 37.

Senators took to the floor to speak about the importance of the AFFH rule in realizing the promise of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, with some recounting their own experience facing or witnessing housing discrimination.

Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), a former mayor, spoke of the discrimination his parents faced when trying to buy a home and how the Fair Housing Act came to their aid. “Legislation that this body passed empowered my family to move into the home of their dreams in an all-White neighborhood with incredibly good schools that I went through from K–12,” Senator Booker said. “I am the beneficiary of work this body did to ensure that our American values are preserved, our values of inclusion and integration, to make sure fair housing is the law of the land. That work gave me my start in life. The activism of local activists, combined with the law of the land as passed by us, defined my path.”

Senators also explained that the AFFH rule empowers local communities to better address the housing needs of all of their residents, and not “federal bureaucrats to dictate where a community’s low income residents will live,” as Senator Lee would like you to believe. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) spoke about how the rule will allow communities to gather “more information to try and find ways we can end the lack of housing availability for certain Americans by bringing in data and trying to create new ways to [address the problem].” He particularly pointed to the housing discrimination faced by many people with disabilities. Indeed, more than 50 percent of fair housing complaints that are filed each year are disability-related.

THUD Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Susan Collins (R-ME) and others pointed out that the rule was a direct response to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that criticized HUD for not effectively enforcing the Fair Housing Act. “[The AFFH rule] wasn’t some wild scheme that was dreamed up by bureaucrats at HUD, as some have claimed,” Senator Collins said. “This was in response to a report from the Government Accountability Office. We talk about how we want more efficiency, better accountability. That is why we have the GAO. This rule that was directly adopted in response to the GAO’s report surely is significant.”

Senators noted that in responding to the GAO, HUD worked diligently to craft a rule that addressed the needs and concerns of many stakeholder groups, a process that spanned years and involved input from the public, including mayors and county executives.

Senator Collins, along with Appropriations Chair Thad Cochran (R-MS) and THUD Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI), offered an amendment that made clear that the new rule does not provide local zoning authority to HUD. That amendment was adopted on an 87-9 vote.

It was critical that the Senate block the AFFH amendment from making its way into the THUD bill, considering the House has included a similar provision in its THUD spending bill the past two years, and is likely to do so again. If both the House and Senate were to include language blocking the AFFH rule in their THUD bills, it becomes more likely that that language will be incorporated in a final THUD bill negotiated between the two chambers.

Fair Housing advocates must remain ever vigilant to make sure that doesn’t happen. But in the meantime, let’s savor this victory and give heaping thanks to our champions in the Senate who defended the Fair Housing Act with so much persistence and righteousness.