CAFHC is reflecting on the issues that many victims of domestic violence face when it comes to obtaining and maintaining fair housing. For many, home is a place of safety, love, security, and comfort. But for millions of others suffering from issues of domestic violence, home is anything but a sanctuary. Let’s take a quick look at the stats, provided by the U.S. Department of Justice:
- 3 million women and 835,000 men are victims of physical violence by a partner every year.
- Every 9 seconds, a woman in the U.S. is beaten or assaulted by a current or ex-significant other.
- 1 in 4 men are victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner.
- 5 percent of male homicide victims each year are killed by an intimate partner.
The numbers are horrifying and add another reason to the ever-growing list of reasons that victims of domestic violence deserve a safe and protective space to live. Victims deserve the right to fair housing. Yet, despite concrete steps and protections like those outlined in the Fair Housing Act and by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, securing a safe space to live remains a challenging and troubling task for many survivors of domestic violence.
Domestic Violence is a Leading Cause of Homelessness
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, domestic violence is a major contributing of homelessness. Lack of affordable housing, fair housing, and long tenant waiting lists mean that many victims (and often their children, too) are forced to choose between abuse at home and life on the streets.
NCH reports approximately 63 percent of homeless women have experienced domestic violence in their adult lives. Many of those are due to fair housing discrimination and the inability to obtain a space to live. In direct conflict with the needs of survivors, cities and local governments throughout the country have enacted local crime free rental housing and nuisance property ordinances — local laws which punish survivors for calling the police or for the acts of perpetrators. CAFHC has explored those laws in previous blogs on domestic violence and fair housing.
These ordinances commonly require landlords to use a “crime-free lease” that makes criminal activity by any person connected to a tenant household a basis for eviction (even if the tenants themselves were not involved in the crime or were victims of it). Yet, they often provide the landlord with permission to evict households who make calls for police assistance, even if it is against domestic violence issues.
Victims Need to Know Their Rights
We have explored these rights before. Because they’re so important, CAFHC believes that they’re worth repeating.
- Under the Fair Housing Act, a landlord cannot reject an applicant for tenancy because of sex, a sex stereotype or as a result of learning they have experienced domestic or gender/sex-based violence in the past.
- A landlord cannot demand sexual favors in exchange for doing repairs or not raising the rent.
- A landlord cannot apply rules to single persons that are not applied to other tenants in response to learning that they are or previously were in an abusive relationship.
- The federal Violence Against Women Act of 2013 (VAWA) sets out specific provisions to protect survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking who live in certain types of federally subsidized housing from discrimination.
- Public Housing Authorities and landlords covered by federal law cannot refuse a victim’s admission to housing or deny a housing voucher based on the individual’s status as a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
- Federally-subsidized housing providers must keep confidential all information relating to the fact that a person might be a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
- Some states and jurisdictions have laws that may provide additional protection from discrimination for survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. CAFHC provides multiple free resources, including legal information, legal assistance, National Fair Housing help, printable materials and education. Do feel free to utilize as many as you might need.
You are Not Alone
Through our efforts, victims of domestic violence in need of fair housing are never alone. At CAFHC, our mission is to, 1) promote the knowledge and education of fair housing rights and, 2) eliminate housing discrimination through the use of laws like the Fair Housing Act, among others.
Feel free to reach out to us today to get better informed and more involved.
In addition, anyone who believes she or he has experienced discrimination in housing may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777. Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to www.hud.gov/fairhousing, or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination app