October 31, 2014

Survivors of domestic violence need fair housing, not eviction

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As we come to the end of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it’s important to remember that one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime; and 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

HUD is acutely aware of these sobering statistics, and at the intersection of domestic violence and fair housing, the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity has been working to implement the housing protections included in the 2013 Violence Against Women Act. At the same time, we’re also enforcing the Fair Housing Act to protect women who are victims of domestic violence from housing discrimination.  In addition, the VAWA legislation offers legal protections for victims of domestic violence, including some protections against eviction.

Women who endure domestic violence already have an enormous load to bear as they try to escape sometimes life-threatening situations. When municipalities, landlords or others try to evict these survivors due to domestic violence incidents, it’s punishing them twice. The women and their families deserve fair housing, not eviction.

Today we are announcing that HUD has charged A&G Management located in Glen Burnie, Maryland, with violating the Fair Housing Act when it issued a 30-day eviction and refused to renew a woman’s lease because she and her teenage son were violently stabbed in her apartment by her young son’s father. We recognize the woman’s courage in reporting her case to HUD. For those attempting to escape domestic violence, safe and stable housing can determine whether a family survives or not.

In an earlier case announced this October, HUD reached a settlement with Norristown, Pennsylvania, to resolve allegations that the municipality violated the Fair Housing Act when it adopted ordinances that encouraged landlords to evict tenants cited for “disorderly behavior,” including domestic violence incidents, or else risk being fined or losing their rental license.

In one case, a female renter was cited for disorderly behavior three times, stemming from three times her ex-boyfriend forced his way into her unit and assaulted her.  The third incident resulted in the woman being airlifted to the hospital after being stabbed. Her ex-boyfriend was charged with assault and other charges and incarcerated, but the tenant’s landlord, under a city ordinance, was required to evict her.  Under a concurrent settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union, Norristown repealed the ordinance and paid $495,000 to the victim.

No woman should have to choose between calling for help and keeping her home.  HUD stands with these women to ensure justice is served.

Gustavo Velasquez is the Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

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