Shaheen, Wasserman Schultz & Malliotakis Reintroduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Provide Housing Rights to Domestic Violence Victims
(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) reintroduced the Fair Housing for Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Survivors Act with Congresswomen Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) and Nicole Malliotakis (NY-11). This legislation would provide legal protections for victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and sex trafficking who are seeking housing. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated incidents of domestic violence and sexual assault, as well as housing discrimination, harassment and abuse.
“Access to safe housing is a serious issue for survivors and their families, which is increasingly more difficult in New Hampshire as we face a housing crisis. This bipartisan legislation would be an important tool to break down barriers and protect already vulnerable populations,” said Senator Shaheen. “This bill is a commonsense, but big step we can take in Congress to enhance safety measures for victims of violence and trafficking by providing them with fair housing protections.”
“For far too long, survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking have been forced to choose between confinement with their abusers or homelessness,” said Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz. “Even as they are victimized, they can – and have been – evicted on the grounds of involvement in criminal activity. I am proud to introduce legislation that will remedy this injustice, expanding the protections granted by the Fair Housing Act to allow people to escape abusive situations.”
“Every survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, or human trafficking deserves a safe place to call home,” said Congresswoman Malliotakis. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Fair Housing for Survivors Act to ensure survivors have the necessary resources to rebuild their lives free from abuse, protect them from unfair discrimination in the private housing market and provide them with support to escape abusive environments.”
If enacted, the Fair Housing for Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Survivors Act would help stem this crisis by:
- Building on protections in the Violence Against Women Act with respect to domestic violence.
- Adding ‘survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence and sex trafficking’ to the list of protected classes under the Fair Housing Act, establishing a clear standard across the country that victims of domestic violence, sexual violence or sex trafficking cannot be evicted or otherwise penalized for being victims of those crimes.
- Allowing the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice to more effectively protect victims of domestic violence and sexual violence.
- Encouraging more states to adopt similar protections at the state level.
As Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), Shaheen spearheads efforts to protect survivors and help them seek justice. For the sixth year in a row, Shaheen successfully secured the highest funding level ever for the DOJ-administered VAWA grants programs in the fiscal year (FY) 2023 government funding bill, totaling $700 million for the OVW, including $50 million for transitional housing assistance grants. This amount for OVW programs is a 22 percent increase from last year’s funding level and will support training officials, rape prevention programs, processing rape kits, domestic violence hotlines, women’s shelters and transitional housing support services.
In addition, Shaheen’s bipartisan legislation with U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) – the Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act – was signed into law as part of the FY 2023 national defense authorization legislation. In her capacity as Chair of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Shaheen included $10 million to launch the program in the FY23 government funding bill under OVW. In 2016, Shaheen led the effort to pass the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act, which was signed into law by President Obama. The historic legislation guaranteed rights for survivors of sexual assault in federal cases and led to 21 states adopting similar legislation, including New Hampshire. The bipartisan Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act builds on the legacy of Shaheen’s initial legislation by ensuring that all survivors, not just those in federal cases, are protected. Last year, Senator Shaheen’s bipartisan POWER 2.0 Act with Senator Sullivan (R-AK) to reauthorize legislation that expands pro bono legal resources for victims and survivors was signed into law.
During the pandemic, Senator Shaheen worked to provide more resources and services to domestic violence survivors nationwide. She helped lead calls to Congressional leadership to include additional funding to support the victims of child abuse, domestic violence and dating violence in COVID-19 response legislation, and engaged directly with organizations on the frontlines about the impact COVID-19 had on survivors and the state’s crisis centers.