Bipartisan Bill Increasing Housing Protections for Survivors of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Human Trafficking Is Reintroduced

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), along with Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), reintroduced the “Fair Housing for Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Survivors Act” in the U.S. Congress on April 26. If enacted, the bipartisan bill would add survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, and sex trafficking to the list of classes protected under the “Fair Housing Act,” which would help ensure that people who are survivors of these crimes do not face eviction or other forms of retaliation for crimes committed against them. NLIHC has endorsed the bill.

Domestic and intimate partner violence is a leading cause of homelessness among women and families. As many as 57% of women and children experiencing homelessness cite escaping intimate partner violence as the primary reason for their homelessness. The nation’s severe shortage of affordable housing often leaves survivors with few options for keeping a roof over their children’s heads, forcing them to make an impossible choice between staying with an abuser, or leaving and risking the dangers of homelessness.

Some localities have also enacted “nuisance” or “crime-free” ordinances and policies, which target households in which alleged “nuisance” activity – including calls to emergency services or noise disturbances – occurs. While in theory these policies aim to hold tenants and owners responsible for disturbances accountable by threatening them with fines, eviction, or other penalties, the broadness of such policies often results in incidents of domestic violence being labeled “nuisance” activity, discouraging survivors from calling for assistance for fear of facing retribution or eviction.

“Access to safe housing is a serious issue for survivors and their families, which is increasingly more difficult in New Hampshire as we face a housing crisis,” said Senator Shaheen in a press release for the bill. “This bipartisan legislation would be an important tool to break down barriers and protect already vulnerable populations. This bill is a commonsense but big step we can take in Congress to enhance safety measures for victims of violence and trafficking by providing them with fair housing protections.”

“For far too long, survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking have been forced to choose between confinement with their abusers or homelessness,” said Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz in a press release. “Even as they are victimized, they can – and have been – evicted on the grounds of involvement in criminal activity. I am proud to introduce legislation that will remedy this injustice, expanding the protections granted by the Fair Housing Act to allow people to escape abusive situations.”

“Every survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, or human trafficking deserves a safe place to call home,” said Congresswoman Malliotakis. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Fair Housing for Survivors Act to ensure survivors have the necessary resources to rebuild their lives free from abuse, protect them from unfair discrimination in the private housing market, and provide them with support to escape abusive environments.”