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Jayapal and Meng Lead Lawmakers in Introducing the Housing is a Human Right Act

Transformative legislation provides more than $300 billion for crucial housing infrastructure while increasing affordable housing and reducing homelessness

WASHINGTON — Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Grace Meng (NY-06) led lawmakers today in introducing the Housing is a Human Right Act, transformative legislation to authorize more than $300 billion for crucial housing infrastructure while reducing homelessness across America. Endorsed by dozens of groups who are working on the frontlines of the growing housing instability crisis, this urgent proposal invests more than $200 billion in necessary affordable housing and support services. Additionally, the bill puts forward $27 billion a year for homelessness services, provides $100 million a year for community-driven alternatives to criminalization of those experiencing homelessness, and makes targeted investments in communities at disproportionate risk of homelessness. 

“Experiencing homelessness is not a moral failure of individuals, but a structural failing on the part of a country that has long refused to make safe and affordable housing a priority. This crisis of housing instability is human-created but that means that we can fix it — and we must,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “By investing billions of dollars in housing infrastructure, we will provide affordable housing and supportive services for vulnerable communities while ensuring that everyone has a bed to sleep in, a roof over their head, and their dignity recognized. By doing so, we will not only finally guarantee housing as a human right in this country but we will create an America where everyone has a place to call home.”

“Housing is a human right, and everybody in our country deserves a safe and affordable place to live,” said Congresswoman Meng. “Unfortunately, too many Americans are forced to choose between having a roof over their head and affording basic necessities. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated an already dire housing crisis in New York and across the nation, forcing more people into poverty. Housing instability and homelessness is debilitating and demeaning. This is completely unacceptable and must change. That is why I am proud to join Congresswoman Jayapal in introducing the Housing is a Human Right Act, which makes long overdue, monumental investments in housing infrastructure and homelessness services. This gives communities like mine the resources we need to guarantee access to affordable housing, as well as the tools needed to tackle homelessness — while upholding the dignity of each person. It’s time to make our communities livable for ALL people.”

People across America faced a crisis of housing instability long before COVID-19 pushed millions of additional families into poverty. As the public health and economic crisis continue, HUD reported that for the first time, there were more unsheltered homeless individuals than those with a form of shelter. Rates of unsheltered homelessness have increased over the last few years, and more than 500,000 people — including more than 100,000 children — were experiencing homelessness before the pandemic. One in four renters was also spending half of their monthly income on rent, and nearly a million tenants were evicted each year. Additionally, someone earning the minimum wage cannot afford safe and healthy housing for their family anywhere in the country. 

This is particularly true in Washington state, which witnessed one of the biggest increases in people experiencing homelessness in the country between 2019 and 2020. The King County area ranked third in the number of people experiencing homelessness during that time.

Lacking housing often leads to penalization, interactions with law enforcement, and entering the justice system. It also makes it difficult to seek or hold a job, obtain assistance with accessing resources, find safe housing, and receive regular care for health needs. In fact, the harsh conditions of unsheltered homelessness leads to a mortality rate that is four to nine times higher than that of the general public. Additionally, some groups are disproportionately likely to experience homelessness — including communities of color, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, seniors, veterans, former foster youth, and justice system-involved people. While Black communities make up 13 percent of the general population, they comprise 40 percent of people experiencing homelessness and half of all homeless families.

The Housing is a Human Right Act will address this cruel and inequitable reality by:

  • Investing up to $100 billion for McKinney-Vento Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) and $100 billion for Continuum of Care (COC) grants
  • Creating a new grant program to invest in humane infrastructure; providing municipalities with $6 billion a year through a flexible program that will allow them to address their most urgent infrastructure needs related to housing and homelessness  
  • Incentivizing local investments in humane, evidence-based models to support people experiencing homelessness, including alternatives to criminalization and penalization
  • Providing $10 billion for FEMA emergency food and shelter grants while improving grants to better reflect high rates of homelessness and income inequality
  • Authorizing $100 million in grants to public libraries to provide assistance and tailored supports to persons experiencing homelessness

The legislation is endorsed by dozens of local, state, and national organizations including the National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Homelessness Law Center, Community Change Action, Homeless Rights Advocacy Project, Justice Revival, Minority Veterans of America, National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development, National Coalition for the Homeless, National Health Care for the Homeless Council, National Innovation Service, PolicyLink, StandUp for Kids, US Human Rights Network, A Way Home Washington, Hawai’i Institute for Human Rights, Lavender Rights Project, One Stop Career Center of PR, Public Justice Center, Santa Clara Law – International Human Rights Clinic, Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, Urban Upreach Inc, and Washington Low Income Housing Alliance.

“Homelessness is one of our country’s most urgent, tragic and solvable crises,” said President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition Diane Yentel. “The solution to homelessness is affordable and accessible homes, and while we have the resources to provide such homes to all those in need, we lack the political will to invest in solutions at the scale necessary. I applaud Representatives Jayapal and Meng for their bold leadership in introducing legislation that, as part of the People’s Housing Platform, would ensure that people with the lowest incomes and the most marginalized people in America have a stable, affordable home.”

“LGBTQ youth and Black Transgender women are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than non-LGBTQ persons. LGBTQ youth face disproportionate rates of discrimination and the Black Transgender community is experiencing an epidemic of violence and criminalization,” said Lavender Rights Project Executive Director and a member of the WA Black Trans Task Force Rev. Jaelynn Scott. “Housing First is a proven and effective strategy to disrupt violence against Black Trans people and end the criminalization of Black trans and nonbinary gender identities. The Housing is a Human Right bill is a major step in remedying the housing disparity seen in LGBTQ communities and affirming that Black Transgender Lives matter.”

“We know how to solve homelessness, but our country has failed to invest at the scale needed to do that,” said Washington Low Income Housing Alliance Executive Director Rachel Myers. “Rep. Jayapal’s Housing is a Human Right Act makes the investments that we need in housing and services to finally end homelessness in the United States. Taking a targeted universalism approach of directing investments to communities most impacted by homelessness and making sure people experiencing homelessness have a seat at the table in developing solutions will lead to better outcomes and make sure these investments work for everyone. I appreciate Rep. Jayapal’s leadership and am thrilled that she’s reintroducing this important bill!”

“Americans who experience homelessness should have the immediate shelter, safety, and supports they need, as well as the realistic hope of obtaining stable, affordable housing and a better future,” said Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness Executive Director Alison Eisinger. “By funding what works, strengthening core programs, and taking into account real systemic barriers, discrimination, and the costly, negative effects of laws that punish people without homes, the Housing is a Human Right Act will help local communities do better for our neighbors who have been left outside for far too long.”   

The Housing is a Human Right Act is co-sponsored by Grace Meng, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Raul Grijalva, Judy Chu, Ilhan Omar, Jamaal Bowman, James McGovern, Jan Schakowsky, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Earl Blumenauer, Cori Bush, Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia, Ritchie Torres, Rashida Tlaib, and Barbara Lee. 

To view the text of the legislation, click here