ACLU Calls for Greater Congressional Oversight of HUD and its Failure to Meet its Obligations Under VAWA

March 11, 2008 12:00 am

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Washington, DC – The American Civil Liberties today called on Congress to examine the failure of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to fully implement the requirements of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as it relates to victims of domestic violence. The House Financial Services Committee and Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee are slated to begin oversight hearings of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) this week. The ACLU urges these committees to ask HUD why it leaves battered women and children out in the cold.

“A full half of the U.S. cities surveyed cite domestic violence as a primary cause of homelessness for women, and many battered women are unable to escape abusive situations because they can’t secure housing. So it is unconscionable that the law prohibiting discrimination by public housing authorities and Section 8 landlords under HUD against victims of domestic violence is not enforced,” said Sandra Park, staff attorney for the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) prohibits discrimination by public housing authorities and landlords and owners who accept Section 8 subsidies against victims of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking. It requires public housing authorities to include statements about VAWA implementation and services in their plans and publications, although many public housing authorities and Section 8 landlords have neglected to do so. It is HUD’s responsibility to oversee implementation of this law but it has failed to do so in any meaningful way. HUD (1) has failed to issue regulations or sufficient guidance to public housing authorities about the VAWA provisions; (2) has approved annual and five-year plans submitted by public housing authorities that do not address the needs of domestic violence survivors as required by statute; (3) and has distributed incorrect information about VAWA’s applicability.

The ACLU believes that HUD must fulfill its obligation to vulnerable women by ensuring that all public housing authorities and Section 8 landlords comply with their obligations under VAWA. “Without proper implementation of the law, discrimination against survivors of violence will continue, threatening both their housing and long-term safety,” said Vania Leveille, legislative counsel at the Washington Legislative Office. “It’s time for Congress to conduct real oversight of HUD and ensure that already vulnerable women are not made more vulnerable by HUD’s inaction and misinformation.”

The ACLU’s letter to Congress can be found at: /womensrights/violence/34427leg20080311.html

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