Public comment opportunity: HUD proposed rule to evict children and families from public housing

Below is language from what The Praxis Project will submit as our public comment for a federal policy proposal impacting immigrants. Please feel free to borrow and add your own unique voice from the non-italicized language below, to submit your comment HERE before the July 9th deadline.

This proposal would significantly affect the health and welfare of families with mixed immigration status and presents an important opportunity for us to share our perspectives. If you or someone you know could be impacted by these policies, we encourage you to share what you expect would be the consequences of this policy for you and your family or community.


Background: Currently, there are households in which some individuals qualify for public and subsidized housing and others are ineligible for those benefits due to their immigration status, whether they are undocumented or have another visa status such as victims of certain crimes, certain workers or visitors, tourists, diplomats and students. Mixed status households are allowed to receive housing subsidies because subsidies are prorated to exclude the ineligible individual(s) in the household from assistance.

If passed, the Housing and Urban Development Department’s proposed rule would prohibit all households with one or more ineligible individual(s) from living in public and subsidized housing. This would result in the separation or eviction of mixed status families who live in public and subsidized housing. Families could be evicted after 18 months or sooner.

The rule would also require tens of thousands of housing agencies and private property owners to collect documents ‘proving’ the citizenship of more than 9 million assisted residents who have already attested that they are US citizens. If individuals are unable to produce the required documents in the designated timeframe, they could lose their housing.

This proposal is a result of the President’s issuing Executive Order 13828, which says that agencies should ‘adopt policies to ensure that only eligible persons receive benefits...providing that aliens who are not otherwise qualified and eligible may not receive benefits.’

The Praxis Project submits this public comment in opposition to the Department of Housing and Urban Development proposal to prohibit eligibility for mixed status households to (continue to) qualify for public and subsidized housing, Docket ID HUD-2019-0044, published in the Federal Register on May 10, 2019.  

As one of the nation’s leading health justice and racial justice advocates, The Praxis Project opposes this proposed change because it poses significant risks to health and safety for individuals and families, including at least 55,000 children at risk of displacement by HUD’s own estimation.

Based on the experiences of our communities, we are concerned that this proposal would exacerbate the growing housing crisis by displacing and/or separating countless mixed status families. Our perspective is informed through interactions with our many base-building grassroots partners around the United States, who are committed to housing justice - housing as a human right by which all people are able to access high-quality, safe, and affordable housing. Among our network, housing justice is the second-most frequent social determinant of health for which our base-building partners are advocating and organizing. Our base-building partners work every day to keep families together by preserving, protecting and creating safe and affordable housing access. We are concerned that the proposed rule would diminish these efforts by separating families - or worse, putting children and others on the street.

Further, this rule is predicated on Executive Order 13828, ‘Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility.’ The EO states that our country was founded on principles of freedom and equal opportunity towards ‘self-sufficiency, well-being, and economic mobility.’ Diminishing children and families’ access to a roof over their heads, separating families and evicting individuals and families all contradict these principles.

Housing stability for low-income residents is a vital social determinant of health and broader community economic stability. We already know that evictions are a health equity issue - increasing rates of evictions disproportionately impact Black women and their children. In addition, even the threat of eviction leads individuals to report poor health, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and distress relative to people who experience stable housing. The results of evictions - including overcrowding, homelessness and emergency room visits - also demonstrate various negative health outcomes for adults and children.

Eviction and other forms of housing instability, such as having to move frequently, are particularly harmful for children, which means that these rule changes would harm the health of many children living in mixed-status families. Unstable housing means that children are more likely to have behavioral problems and to struggle in school — and in classrooms where the student population changes quickly and frequently, all students can fall behind. Education itself is linked to positive health outcomes and longer lives: thus, creating housing instability in children’s lives can have immediate and negative health impacts, but can also lead to poorer health across the lifecourse by disrupting their education.

When families have to put too much of their income towards their rent, they cannot afford to pay for other basic needs like food and health care. Hence, problems like food insecurity increase along with housing costs, and many renters delay needed medical care because they can’t afford it.

Through its anticipated impact in terms of evictions, this proposal also violates basic just cause principles which have been codified by various cities and states - often as a result of concerted effort by housing justice advocates and partly in response to the fact that evictions have the greatest impact on low-income and Black residents.

Ripping families away from stable housing, or tearing families apart so that only some members can have a home while other do not, have severe and deadly public health outcomes - not just for the families, but for our society. We cannot have healthy, thriving communities by increasing separation and/or displacement and housing instability of low-income children and families.

For these reasons, the Praxis Project urges the Department to rescind this dangerous proposal which would leave families with no other choice but to either lose their homes or split up their family members. We ask that the Department instead promote policies that support access to high-quality, safe, and affordable housing as a human right.

Aliza Kazmi