For release: March 13, 2019
Elected leaders of the national US tenants union today demanded immediate and total rejection by Congress of President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget request, released on March 11.
“Its actually worse than last year. Trump’s budget will push people from their homes; starve seniors, children and families; and deny health care to millions of people,” said Geraldine Collins, President of the National Alliance of HUD Tenants (NAHT), who lives in a senior housing development in Manhattan. “People will die if these proposals see the light of day. Congress should declare Trump’s 2019 budget ‘dead on arrival’ instead.”
Added Collins, “The recent shutdown crisis led by Trump caused millions to panic that they would be evicted because HUD and USDA funds would run out for their homes. Landlords are now warier about taking Section 8 tenants, and housing authorities are under severe pressure to sell off public housing. You have to ask: was the shutdown a deliberate attempt to destroy HUD rental housing? Another ‘shutdown showdown’ is looming again in September over Trump’s Wall.” Collins noted that the 16% cut proposed this year is consistent with the Heritage Foundation’s draconian plan to terminate HUD rental housing over 10 years, embraced by Trump’s Chief of Staff and former Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.Read more
The stop-gap agreement with congressional leaders will last three weeks, until Feb. 15, and would allow talks to continue over border security and a wall on the southern border. The agreement includes no new money for the wall, and is a massive concession on Trump's behalf after refusing a similar funding package a month ago.
With the temporary re-opening of HUD and other agencies, an immediate catastrophe was averted as airports began to close across the country. Congress has now authorized about two more months of funding for HUD, USDA and other critical agencies.
Trump’s Shutdown Threatens 3.4 Million Low Income Tenants with Displacement: Take Action NOW to Save Our Homes!
The Trump shutdown of HUD and other federal agencies has already dragged on for 19 days, the longest in US history, with no end in sight! HUD tenants are already feeling the sting.
On Monday, January 7, HUD announced that no funds are available to renew 1,150 Section 8 contracts that expired in December 2018 and January 2019, or another 550 contracts that expire in February 2019 or beyond. An estimated 100,000 low income households--elderly, people with disabilities and families with children-- already face repair and service cutbacks, and could face rent increases and displacement, if HUD funds are not restored soon.
Worse, another 21,150 Section 8 contracts housing 1.1 million low income renters have been funded only through February. There is no evidence that HUD has funds for these properties if the shutdown continues into March, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
In addition, HUD does not have funds to continue subsidies after February for 2.2 million more Section 8 Voucher recipients, administered by local housing authorities. For all Section 8 tenants, owners could attempt to terminate the leases low income tenants unable to pay rents three or four times what they pay today, to cover operating costs if HUD subsidies are terminated.
Trump has threatened to make the shutdown last for “months or years” if he doesn’t get his Wall. If the shutdown lasts past February, a total of 3.4 million Section 8 tenants could lose their homes.
On January 2, the newly elected House voted to approve a HUD Appropriations bill, previously passed by the Republican Senate, to fully fund Section 8. But Republican Leader McConnell refuses to bring this or any other funding bill to the Senate Floor, unless Trump will sign it, and Trump has vowed to reject any bill until Congress provides $5.6 billion for the Wall. Democrats demand that Congress reopen closed agencies first, and debate “border security” and the Wall separately.
For a good explanation of how Section 8 contracts work and the threats to HUD tenants, see the NBC articles below and this blog post from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
Also see NAHT's resource page for articles about the impact of the shutdown on current low-income tenants.
What Tenants Can Do To Save Our Homes
- Find the buildings whose contracts have already expired and are not yet funded. You can check if your building has a Section 8 contract expiring soon on through NLIHC's map here or through their spreadsheet here. If your building is on this list, most likely HUD funds have ALREADY been cut from your building! Owners and managers can see if they have been receiving payments from HUD through their online database system, called LOCCS (HUDs Line of Credit Control System). Contact the owner and manager of your building and ask them if they have funds available in their LOCCS account have been receiving payments through LOCCS.
- Line up tenant leaders for quotes in media stories about the cuts--issue a press release and contact local media, to make tenant voices heard! Use the press release from the NAHT Board for quotes and messaging. If you can, organize a press conference at a housing development, city agency, HUD office or local Senator’s office--invite elected officials to join tenants to protest the cuts! Let NAHT know of affected tenants willing to talk to national media! NAHT has been contacted by national media outlets, including NBC News, looking for tenants to interview at affected buildings. Contact NAHT at 617-522-4523 or [email protected]
- Mobilize tenants to tell Congress to approve HUD funding NOW, especially in buildings with expiring contracts where you have tenant contacts. If you don’t, doorknock and post flyers letting tenants know that their building is directly affected and the information they need to contact their Senator, including a call-in script. Click here to find your Senator or Representative, especially Republicans who have refused to fund HUD. In particular, tell Republican Senators to pass the Appropriations Bill they supported before the shutdown started! Organize phone banks to call your Senator, or ask tenants to call while doorknocking.
Message: “I’m a <senior, disabled, family> Section 8 tenant at <your development>. Without Section 8, my rent could triple or quadruple overnight and I would lose my home. I’m one of 3.4 million Section 8 tenants who could lose our homes if the shutdown lasts through February. My home should not be held hostage to Trump’s Wall!”
For Democrats: Thank them for their support to pass the HUD budget NOW.
For Republican Senators: Demand that they tell Majority Leader McConnell to bring the HUD funding bill to the Senate Floor and pass it NOW!
For Republican Representatives (House): Demand they vote to support the HUD funding bill and override Trump’s veto. A vote against the HUD bill is a vote to throw people out of their homes.
- Start a social media campaign. Post your messages to Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Find your Senator’s Twitter handle here and your Representatives Twitter handle here.. Organize Twitter users to tweet on the same day or in a specific time window using the same hashtag to get your topic “trending”.
- Organize a postcard campaign demanding your Congresspeople pass the Appropriations bill to reopen the government! You can organize press and social media when postcards are delivered to local offices. See NAHT's postcard and phone bank tip sheet here!
- Keep NAHT posted of your local actions! We will post them on NAHT’s Facebook page and website. Join NAHT’s weekly Strategy Calls as long as the shutdown lasts. Contact the NAHT office to join the list serve. The calls are currently every Wednesday at 12:30 pm EST.
DISLCALIMER: VISTA Volunteers are not permitted to lobby for or against legislation.
At every NAHT Conference, tenant leaders ask HUD officials how their buildings can score passing REAC inspection scores when they know their buildings are in complete disrepair. In fact, there are multiple reports of buildings passing with flying colors, with scores as high as in the 90s, when they should score a failing grade, below 60. What’s more, tenants know that landlords will do the bare minimum of repairs in order to get a barely passing score and escape follow-up and enforcement from HUD. This is a product the federal government’s systematic defunding of HUD, leading the agency to contract inspections out to private companies.
NAHT updated its recommendations for REAC reform in 2015. Several VISTAs, led by Nehemiah Bey, Devondrick Jeffers and others, were encountering substandard properties with high REAC scores. NAHT formed a Special REAC Task Force which recommended changes in REAC’s scoring system to better respond to mold, bedbugs and other common problems ignored in REAC’s current system. NAHT has advocated for these changes at every NAHT conference and Board meeting with HUD officials since that time, led by Board leaders Geraldine Collins, Demetrius Bonner, Rachel Williams, Charlotte Delgado, Charlotte Rodgers and others.
Recently, HUD published a new notice, Notice 2018-8, regarding HUD enforcement actions for substandard properties. The new Notice implements Congressional amendments to the enforcement process in FY 2017, and replaces Notice 2015-2. The notice implements several recommendations made by NAHT tenant leaders, but also takes a few steps backwards in regards to tenant involvement when a building scores between 30 and 60.
On the plus side, the new Notice, for the first time, allows HUD to issue a Demand for Corrective Action for properties with REAC scores above 60, if there are:
- Less than 50% of possible REAC points earned in any category, particularly within units;
- Repeated inspection findings that indicate systemic deficiencies;
- Significant inspection findings that may pose health and safety risks to the tenants;
- Significant local code violations;
- Multiple tenant complaints about property condition; and/or
- Conditions observed by OAMPO staff during a site visit outside of a REAC or MOR.
This opens up an important avenue for tenant organizing and advocacy. “Multiple tenant complaints” and “significant code violations” give us an avenue to invite HUD enforcement actions. Also, if REAC scores are high but there are “systemic deficiencies” (such as mold) “within units”, HUD can issue a Demand for Corrective Action.
On the down side, HUD enforcement is now discretionary for properties with REAC scores above 30 but below 60. The previous requirement for a Compliance, Disposition and Enforcement (CDE) Plan has been dropped. Where properties score below 60, HUD can require a 100% unit survey and corrective action plan, but this is no longer required to be shared with tenants. The only Notice requirement is to share Notices of Default/Violation with tenants, but not the Survey or corrective plans. Following the FY 2017 Congressional amendment, tenant notice and participation has been downgraded. NAHT leaders will continue to fight for tenants to be included in the repairs and renovations process when their homes receive scores less than 60 but more than 30.
NAHT has long advocated for these positive changes in REAC, most recently in the NAHT Board’s October meeting with Brian Montgomery, HUD’s newly confirmed Assistant Secretary for Housing. Montgomery opened the meeting by recalling his discussions with NAHT on REAC reform in 2007, when he was previously at HUD, and that reforming REAC was one of his top priorities.
Our persistence is getting results! We will keep the heat on until REAC’s scores are brought up to date, and continue advocating for NAHT’s recommendations to involve tenants in REAC inspections.