Recently we have been getting questions about the eviction moratorium in California and what tenants can do if they are worried about being evicted because they are behind on their rent due to COVID related economic challenges. The COVID-19 Tenant Relief Act comprises of three state laws – AB 3088, SB 91, and AB 832. AB 3088 initially imposed statewide protections on evictions between March 1, 2020 and January 31, 2021 for tenants unable to pay some or all of their rent due to COVID-19-related financial distress provided the tenant timely submitted to their landlord a signed Declaration of Financial Distress. SB 91 extended these protections through June 30, 2021. Most recently, AB 832 extended these state eviction protections to September 30, 2021. These existing state eviction protections are coupled with financial assistance available to eligible households that have accumulated unpaid rent since March 1, 2020, and who are in need of assistance going forward. However, tenants still have an obligation to pay unpaid rent, and must abide by other lease or rent restrictions/requirements to avoid eviction for reasons other than non-payment. To learn more about the tenant protections visit: https://housing.ca.gov/tenant/protection_guidelines.html
To learn more about the CA COVID Rent Relief program visit: https://housing.ca.gov
Reilly v. Marin Housing Authority is a very important case that was heard by the Supreme Court of California last week. The case centers on whether or not In-Home Support Services (IHSS) payments to a family member who lives with and provides care for a person with a developmental disability can be counted as income when calculating rent for the federal housing choice voucher (also known as Section 8 housing). Housing Authorities provide rental subsidies to people who are eligible, and they determine eligibility based on income counting rules set out in the U.S Department of Housing and Development (HUD) Regulations. Many types of payments are excluded from being counted as income, including what is known as the Developmental Disability Income Exemption. The DD Income Exemption excludes, for the purpose of calculating a housing voucher and rent, the “amount paid by a State agency to a family with a developmentally disabled family member living at home to offset the cost of services and equipment needed to keep the developmentally disabled family member at home.”
The reason this case is so important is because for families who participate in the Housing Choice Voucher Program the portion of the rent paid by the family depends in the family’s annual income. If the IHSS payment is included as income, then the amount of rent subsidized decreases and the families rent increases significantly.
Reilly v. MHA made its way to the CA Supreme Court because the lower courts interpreted the exemption very narrowly to, among other things, find that the exemption created inequity and that the actual definition of “cost” and “offset” were not applicable to family care because family care was in a sense “free” in that there was no “out of pocket” costs associated. In this particular case, Ms. Reilly is single mother who provides 24/7 care for her severely disabled daughter and not only relies on the IHSS payment but also the set amount of subsidized housing and rent based on the exemption as she would not be able to support the household if there was a reduction in the subsidy based on counting the IHSS payment as income. Currently, there is inconsistency throughout the state as some local housing authorities exclude the payment as income while others do not. We will anxiously await the Court’s opinion on this very important issue and share it with you hopefully by the end of the summer. For more information on this important case see Reilly v. Marin Housing Authority (S249593) https://www.courts.ca.gov/44113.htm
The California Budget & Policy Center just released a fact sheet comparing “Fair Market Rent” (FMR) for a studio apartment in each of California’s 58 counties to individual SSI/SSP grants. They found that “In all 58 California counties, the FMR for a studio apartment exceeds 50% of the maximum SSI/SSP grant for an individual. Moreover, the studio FMR exceeds the entire grant in 22 counties.”
The state portion of SSI/SSP income – SSP – was cut drastically during the Great Recession. In 2017 our state policymakers increased the SSP grant by $4.32 per month to begin improving the situation. However, no additional state grant increases have been provided since then, and the Governor’s proposed 2020-21 state budget assumes the SSP portion will remain frozen for another year.
For many people with disabilities SSI/SSP is their only source of income. Given our state’s high housing costs many members of our community are in significant risk or homelessness.
The fact sheet details FMR by county and breaks down the percentage of monthly SSI/SSP needed to afford a studio apartment. Click here to view the fact sheet.
The Arc raised opposition when, in August of 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Developments (HUD) issued a proposed rule that could drastically weaken a long-standing tool used to fight discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. The Act prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, and national origin. It covers private housing, housing that receives Federal financial assistance, and State and local government housing. Here’s some basic information on what the rule does, why this is important, and what you can do.
What’s disparate impact?
Disparate impact claims brought under the Fair Housing Act protect against policies and actions that seem neutral but in practice unfairly harm certain groups of people. This type of discrimination does not have to be intentional. Under the law, and based on current regulations and Supreme Court interpretation, you can bring a housing discrimination claim where a policy or action results in a “disparate impact” on the basis of race, disability, or other protected category.
The proposed rule would change the requirements for making disparate impact claims, undercutting existing protections. Under the proposed rule, it would be much harder, if not impossible, to use disparate impact to challenge discriminatory housing policies and practices. The Fair Housing Act disparate impact standard continues to play an important role in integration and addressing systemic housing discrimination. We must oppose efforts to weaken it.
What can I do?
- You have until October 18th to submit comments. Make your voice heard. To submit a comment to HUD, click here and follow the directions on the page. Feel free to use our comments template as a starting point.Write comments in your own words. The template highlights in [yellow] are suggestions where you can add your own thoughts and experience.
- If you have research, data, or testimonials, consider including them.
- If you have expertise in an issue area, say so. As a person with a disability, or an organization that advocates for disability rights or provides services to people with disabilities, you have credibility!
For more information, including additional comment templates, visit https://defendcivilrights.org/ and https://www.fightforhousingjustice.org/.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently issued a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for $150 million in new “Mainstream” housing vouchers. Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) are eligible to submit applications, due Thursday, September 5, 2019. HUD is providing points in this competitive process for applications that include partnerships between housing and services agencies, especially those that target housing assistance to people with disabilities (ages 18-61) who are transitioning out of institutional or other segregated settings, at serious risk of institutionalization, currently experiencing homelessness, previously experienced homelessness and currently a client in a permanent supportive housing or rapid rehousing, or those at risk of experiencing homelessness.
The supply of affordable, accessible housing remains far less than the need, and this opportunity could be one piece in the puzzle to help address this crisis. Learn more about the opportunity and strategies to build partnerships with state housing agencies or PHAs in your area to submit strong applications. If HUD sees strong applications and good results, we hope it would open up additional funding for this program down the road. The webinar is presented by the CCD Housing Task Force and the Technical Assistance Collaborative. You can also visit HUD’s Mainstream Vouchers page to access the NOFA, FAQs, and other materials.