NCLEJ Submits Public Comment Opposing Proposed HUD “Mixed Status Families” Rule
On May 10, 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) published a proposed rule that would prohibit “mixed-status” families from living in public and other government-subsidized housing. Mixed-status families are households that include both members who are eligible and ineligible for housing assistance based on their immigration status. Currently, under Section 214 of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1980 (“Section 214”), mixed-status households are eligible to receive housing assistance so long as the housing subsidy is decreased to exclude the ineligible person(s) from the assistance. By adding this provision to Section 214 in 1988, Congress has guaranteed that eligible individuals can receive federal housing assistance without breaking up families. HUD’s proposed rule contradicts the purpose of Section 214 and sets aside clear Congressional intent to allow mixed-status families to reside in federally subsidized housing in order to maintain the integrity of the family unit, regardless of immigration status.
If implemented, the proposed rule will harm 25,000 mixed-status families, 70 percent of whom are U.S. citizen children who are eligible to receive housing assistance in order to access safe and affordable shelter. HUD itself has admitted that it “expects that fear of the family being separated would lead to prompt evacuation by most mixed households, whether that fear is justified.” As a result, the proposed rule would evict as many as 108,000 individuals who will likely opt to forgo assistance just to keep their families together, even if nearly 3 out of 4 individuals are eligible to receive benefits.
Furthermore, the proposed rule would create burdensome administrative procedures, or red tape, that will threaten the housing security of 9.5 million U.S. citizens who are currently receiving housing assistance from HUD and all future U.S. citizens seeking to access these benefits. If implemented, the proposed rule would require all residents under the age of 62 to provide documentary evidence of their citizenship status in order to be deemed eligible for federal housing programs. Current policy already requires all U.S. citizen applicants to provide a declaration signed under the penalty of perjury in order to prove their nationality or citizenship status. But the proposed rule would require additional documentary proof, like a birth certificate. Complying with this new requirement can be onerous and costly, especially for U.S. citizens who have low incomes and therefore cannot afford to pay for document-related fees; citizens who were formerly or currently experiencing homelessness who often lose photo identification, birth certificates, and social security cards due to lack of safe places to store them; and citizens who are older or have cognitive or behavioral impairments that make it difficult to follow complex eligibility procedures and produce documents.
HUD contends that the rule is meant to address the wait list crisis faced by many Public Housing Authorities nationwide but, by the agency’s own analysis, the rule will result in fewer, not more, families receiving housing assistance. HUD estimates that implementing the rule will cost between $372 and $437 million annually. To pay for these new costs, HUD predicts it will have to reduce the quantity and quality of assisted housing. HUD acknowledges that its proposed rule could hurt public housing, but rather than focus on using its limited funds to address the deplorable conditions of many units, it is taking the opposite approach by proposing to reduce the quantity of affordable homes available to those in need.
Benefits like federal housing assistance helps to preserve housing stability, health, and well-being of all families. Immigrants often work in our country’s lowest paid jobs, toiling without benefits—including employer funded health care and child care. Prior administrations have recognized the importance of allowing eligible immigrants access to benefits like housing assistance, which enables them to remain employed, support their families, and contribute to society. The proposed rule expressly abandons carefully considered and successful policies in favor of an explicit anti-immigration bias. The proposed rule will harm all families who depend on HUD’s assistance for shelter. NCLEJ, along with many other social justice advocates and organizations, condemn the proposed rule as only one of the Trump Administration’s most recent tactics in building an “invisible wall,” a broader coordinated attack on immigrant families.
Read our full comment letter here. These changes cannot take effect until the Administration reviews and responds to public comments. To learn more about the proposed rule, please visit keep-families-together.org.