August 17, 2016

Sens. Franken, Brown, and Warren Push to End Local Nuisance Ordinances that Endanger Domestic Violence Survivors

Lawmakers Press Top Federal Housing Official to Ensure Survivors Aren't Forced to Choose Between Personal Safety and a Place to Live

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)-along with over 20 of their colleagues-urged the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for action to combat unfair and discriminatory nuisance ordinances that disproportionately affect survivors of domestic violence.

Local nuisance ordinances are generally aimed at combating crime and ensuring the public safety, but they can also unintentionally punish victims for calls to the police or emergency assistance for crimes occurring at their homes. In many cases, landlords are forced to either evict tenants who made the call for help or face hefty fines, loss of rental permits, or property foreclosure. And as a result, victims of crime-including survivors of domestic violence-are forced to face the impossible decision between being safe and being homeless.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has recognized that survivors of domestic violence face unique challenges in securing and maintaining adequate housing. And today, the group of Senators urged HUD to address ongoing barriers to safe housing for victims and their children.

"No one should be forced to choose between safety from an abuser and shelter for themselves and their families." wrote the Senators to the head of HUD. "Unfortunately, all too often, women across the nation are forced to make that decision. As such, we urge you to do everything in your power to prevent further evictions of domestic violence victims and to ensure all Americans have critical access to emergency services without fear of retaliation."

The letter was also signed by Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Tom Udall (D-N. Mex.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

"The ACLU is fighting to stop the enforcement of local laws that penalize crime victims, survivors of domestic violence, and people of color by evicting them simply because a crime occurred in their home or because they called 911," said Vania Leveille, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU. "These ordinances often violate protections found in fair housing laws and laws prohibiting discrimination against domestic violence victims and people with disabilities. Guidance from HUD will go a long way to ensure that no one has to choose between being safe or being homeless. We commend Senators Franken, Brown, and Warren for their leadership on this important issue and thank all of the senators who added their voices in support."

You can view a copy of today's full letter by clicking here.