Federal Housing Agencies Promote Voting Rights and Access for HUD-Assisted Residents and Homeless Households

Four HUD offices sent materials on February 9 to providers of HUD-assisted housing to raise awareness of their residents’ right to access voter registration activities and to participate in the electoral process. The four HUD offices are the Office of Public and Indian Housing (PIH), the Office of Multifamily Housing Programs (Multifamily), and the Office of Special Needs Programs (SNAPS) and the Office of HIV/AIDS Housing, both within the Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD). In addition, on January 4, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) announced the creation of two voting guides, one for homeless service providers and one for people experiencing homelessness.

NLIHC is pleased that these HUD offices and USICH have taken the initiative to provide affirmative guidance regarding voter registration and voting to HUD-assisted housing providers. For many years, various housing organizations, and specifically public housing agencies (PHAs), indicated that they cannot participate in voter registration because they receive federal funding. When NLIHC told them federal funding was not a barrier, the only proof at hand was a PIH letter from 1996. These new actions by the HUD offices are the first affirmation in 26 years that HUD offices and the programs they fund should involve themselves in ensuring their residents have a voice in elections.

Citing the “National Voter Registration Act of 1993,” the HUD offices write “Congress found that the right of citizens to vote is a fundamental right and that it is the duty of the federal, state, and local governments to promote the exercise of that right.” Based on that statute, the four HUD offices are sharing information about the activities HUD-assisted housing provides may engage in to ensure their residents have access to this fundamental right. USICH cites President Biden’s March 7, 2021Executive Order 14019 requiring federal agencies to promote voter registration and participation.

Guidance from HUD Multifamily and PIH

HUD Multifamily distributed an email to anyone on its listserv, urging owners of private properties assisted with Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA) to share voter and election resources with residents. Permissible activities at Multifamily-assisted properties include using community spaces to hold meetings, candidate forums, or voter registration and collaborating with local election administrators to permit the use of PHA space for voter drop boxes and as voting sites, including early voting.

HUD PIH sent an announcement only to PHA executive directors about activities PHAs may engage in to ensure that public housing residents and Housing Choice Voucher residents have access to voting. Permissible voting-related activities mentioned by PIH include:

  • Providing household documentation of residence (e.g., address verification) to public housing residents upon request.
  • Applying to states to operate as a voter registration agency.
  • Making voter registration resources (e.g., voter registration forms) available to residents and (if state law allows) accepting completed voter registration application forms and transmitting them to election officials, as well as running PHA-initiated voter registration drives.
  • Permitting the use of PHA community spaces to hold meetings, candidate forums, and voter registration.
  • Collaborating with local election administrators to permit the use of PHA spaces for voter drop boxes and voting sites, including early voting.

PHAs may use Section 8 administrative fees and public housing operating subsidies to meet the costs for the permissible activities. Where PHAs fund Resident Councils, the Resident Councils may use their funds to provide voter transportation as a resident service.

Multifamily and PIH remind housing providers that Section 504 of the “Rehabilitation Act of 1973” and Titles II and III of the “Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990” (ADA), require that the voting process, including voter registration, site selection, and ballot casting must be accessible for individuals with disabilities. Both offices urge housing providers to encourage residents to learn more at vote.gov

USICH Voting Guides for Homeless Providers and People Experiencing Homelessness

To help more people exercise their right to vote, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) created two voting guides (available in five languages), one for homeless providers and one for people experiencing homelessness.

USICH states that people can vote without a permanent address, and homeless providers can help through nonpartisan registration and get-out-the-vote efforts. USICH notes that the coronavirus pandemic has spurred changes in registration and voting rules in many states, and election misinformation is pervasive online and off. The SNAPS and Office of HIV/AIDS Housing emails reiterate the USICH announcement.

The Multifamily email to owners is at: https://bit.ly/3gHROCo

The PIH announcement to PHA Executive Directors is at: https://bit.ly/3BeXe17

The USICH media announcement is at: https://bit.ly/369Y1VF

President Biden’s Executive Order 14019 is at: https://bit.ly/34MVpMK  

The SNAPS and Office of HIV/AIDS Housing HUD Exchange email is at: https://bit.ly/3uIXwvW

More voter registration resources are at: vote.gov