Amidst Covid-19 Pandemic, Rep. Pressley and Progressive Coalition Introduce The Housing Is A Human Right Act

March 19, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), and Grace Meng (D-NY), along with a coalition of progressive lawmakers and organizations, introduced the Housing is a Human Right Act. The legislation would authorize more than $200 billion in federal spending over 10 years for crucial housing infrastructure and reduce homelessness.

The Housing is a Human Right Act would provide immediate relief to state and community grantees who are struggling to provide emergency shelter, respite shelter for people who are sick or have been discharged from the hospital, and “shelter in place” supplies for people living outside who need food and resources to help them self-isolate due to COVID-19. It would also support additional staffing to increase outreach and support services, and personal protective equipment (PPE) for service providers who may face increased risks of COVID-19 exposure.

The Housing is a Human Right Act would help states and community organizations address homelessness by authorizing more than $200 billion over 10 years for federal grant programs, including the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Grant Program and some of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s largest grant programs. It also establishes the “Community Development Block Grants Plus” grant program to provide municipalities support in developing infrastructure responsive to the needs of persons experiencing homelessness, housing instability, or housing-related cost-burdens. In addition to funding emergency shelter to house people in crisis, these federal investments will fund transitional housing, short- and medium-term rent subsidies, permanent housing and supportive services for people experiencing homelessness.

“Access to safe and affordable housing is an issue of public health, an issue of economic equality, and an issue of racial justice,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “What this moment requires is a bold, ambitious proposal that matches the scale of this unfolding crisis. I’m proud to co-sponsor the Housing is a Human Right Act, which dedicates necessary government funds to protecting and caring for our most vulnerable— affirming that poverty is not a character flaw, and nobody deserves less because they can’t afford more.”

“The homelessness crisis in America predates the COVID-19 pandemic, but the consequences of federal disinvestment in critical housing infrastructure and supportive services have never been clearer. The experience of homelessness is not a moral failure of individuals, but a structural failing on the part of a society that has refused to prioritize the needs of the most vulnerable, including safe and affordable housing,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “This bill recognizes a fundamental truth: Housing is a human right. By investing massive amounts of federal dollars to help states and local organizations on the frontlines, we can provide housing and supportive services for vulnerable communities and ensure everyone in America has a bed to sleep in and a roof over their head. With COVID-19 spreading throughout our communities, it has never been more important to address this issue immediately.”

“It is shamefully long overdue that our nation gives the humane attention and necessary investments to address the issue of homelessness once and for all. We can no longer remain status quo. The current public health crisis of COVID-19 is revealing in real time the significant insufficiencies and inefficiencies in our housing infrastructure and critical supportive services,” said Congresswoman Meng. “In New York, more than 90,000 New Yorkers are without a home. That cannot continue; I will not let that continue. That is why I am proud to introduce alongside Congresswoman Jayapal – the Housing is a Human Right Act – legislation that would take monumental steps and investments to address this critical issue. I commend those who are on the frontlines of addressing the issues of homelessness and housing instability. I thank all the advocates to have supported our legislation, and I urge our congressional colleagues to support this bill. Because Housing is, indeed, a Human Right.” 

Congresswomen Pressley, Jayapal and Meng were joined by U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

“Now, more than ever, the federal government must recognize that housing is a human right and provide the resources necessary to reflect that fact,” said Congressman Blumenauer. “I’m proud to join with Congresswomen Jayapal and Meng in introducing a bold proposal to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness across America.”

“People in the richest country in the world shouldn’t have to worry about whether they’ll have a roof over their head but that is the reality for thousands of Americans including many in Chicago. I’m proud to co-sponsor this legislation to fund emergency housing support, homeless assistance and infrastructure development and residents who need it most,” said Congressman García. “This bill would help slow the gentrification, displacement, and growing homelessness so rampant on the northwest and southwest sides of Chicago to ensure housing affordability for all.”

“In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, we must be doing everything in our power to address homelessness and housing insecurity. People experiencing homelessness are extremely vulnerable to contract and spread the virus, and more likely to have underlying health conditions that would put their lives at risk. As more Americans are impacted by the economic downturn, we need ensure that every American has their human right to safe and affordable housing guaranteed,” said Congresswoman Omar.

The Housing is a Human Right Act

  • Authorizes up to $100 billion over 10 years for McKinney-Vento Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG);
  • Authorizes up to $100 billion over 10 years for Continuum of Care (COC) grants;
  • Creates a new grant program to invest in humane infrastructure, providing municipalities with $6 billion a year through a flexible program that will allow municipalities to address their most urgent infrastructure needs related to addressing homelessness and housing.  
  • Authorizes $10 billion over 10 years for FEMA emergency food and shelter grants and improves grants to better reflect high rates of homelessness and income inequality;
  • Authorizes $100 million over 10 years in grants to public libraries to provide assistance and tailored supports to persons experiencing homelessness;
  • Incentivizes local investments in humane, evidence-based models to support people experiencing homelessness, including alternatives to criminalization;
  • Prioritizes the right of people experiencing homelessness to access and replace key personal documents, to protect their right to vote; and,
  • Invests resources in flexible funds that assist municipalities to engage in evidence-based, non-criminalizing approaches to people experiencing homelessness.

The bill is supported by more than 37 progressive and housing advocates, including the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, and the Washington State Low Income Housing Alliance.

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