Fighting Displacement: What We’re Watching
The ability to afford housing is a daily struggle for thousands of American families and individuals. According to Bloomberg, approximately 900,000 renters received eviction notices in 2016 alone and more than 20 million households currently dedicate more than 30 percent of their income towards housing costs.
Numerous factors, from federal budgeting to local development grants, influence the stability and accessibility of the United States’ housing market. Earlier this year, we wrote about different legislative initiatives underway in Greater Boston to prevent displacement, including restrictions on short-term rentals and clarification around eviction notices. However, since then, certain policy changes have come to our attention on the local and national scale that may undercut equal access to affordable housing opportunities. Here’s a breakdown of a few initiatives that we are currently watching.
- National – Public Housing Rent Increases & Work Requirements: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced several measures to reduce the amount of resources dedicated to federal assistance. Such changes include increasing required rent payments for public housing from 30 percent of household income, with deductions for medical and child care payments, to 35 percent of total income. This means that for the most vulnerable, low-income families and individuals, rental payments could increase from a minimum of $50/month to $150/month. HUD is also considering making it easier for housing authorities to implement work or job-training requirements for households with members under 65. This means that state and local agencies, as well as private owners, could evict families who don’t work a certain number of hours, impacting individuals who are facing difficulties finding work, obtaining more hours, or affording secure child care.
- National – Changes to the Fair Housing Act: HUD is currently reviewing the Fair Housing Act, a civil rights law that was enhanced by a US Supreme Court ruling in 2015, which prevents discrimination in financing, renting or purchasing housing on the basis of race, sexual orientation, religion or national origin. By potentially altering the regulation, HUD may undermine decades of work to prevent housing discrimination and segregation.
- Local – Overturning the Jim Brooks Stabilization Act: Signed into law by Mayor Walsh in October 2017, the Jim Brooks Stabilization Act was designed to reduce displacement by requiring landlords to notify Boston officials ahead of evicting a tenant and city officials to alert tenants of their rights. In addition to preventing unjust eviction, the Act would have provided further insight into why and where evictions were taking place throughout the city, and to how many people. On May 2, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary overturned the Act and, thus, several measures to better understand Boston’s housing landscape and make tenants aware of their rights.
As legislation progresses we will continue to watch these policies closely, and the impact that decisions have on struggling residents here and across the country. At IBA, we are passionate about providing affordable housing options to residents in Boston and fighting unjust displacement.
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