Place, Race, and Equity Legislative Watch: March Edition
Welcome to the Place, Race, and Equity Legislative Watch, which tracks proposed federal legislation by Congress that impact the fight to eliminate place-based inequality.
Between January 3 and March 28th, members of Congress have proposed 3,293 bills. Of these, 29 are on the topic of Housing and Community Development.
In this edition, we are covering:
H.R. 1146 Equal Opportunity for Residential Representation Act (D-Ellison)
H.R. 1447 Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2017 (R-Taylor)
H.R. 1469 Welfare Benefit Reform (R-Davidson)
Representative Keith Ellison (D-NY), along with cosponsors Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), and Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-CA), seek to require Secretary Carson of HUD “to establish a pilot program to make grants to eligible organizations to provide legal assistance to low-income families regarding housing disputes, and for other purposes.” A Baltimore study by the Public Justice Center and the Right for Housing Alliance found that most renters facing eviction had legal grounds to withhold rent. Nonetheless, renters almost always lost in rent court due to lack of knowledge about how to navigate the process or access to legal representation. This pilot program may prove that investments in eviction prevention can help communities stop homelessness and the additional cost burdens homelessness creates.
This bill has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Committee on Ways and Means. Financial Services Committee members include New Jersey Representative Thomas MacArthur (R) and Representative Josh Gottheimer (D). Ways and Means Committee members include New Jersey Representative Bill Pascrell (D).
2. INTRODUCED: H.R. 1447 Fair and Equal Housing Act of 2017
Representative Scott Taylor (R-VA), along with 4 Republican and Democrat co-sponsors, seek to extend the anti-discrimination protections of the Fair Housing Act to the LGBT community. Currently, only 20 states have protections for people suffering discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in the housing market, despite evidence that this type of discrimination is common among transgender people and same-sex couples. This rare bipartisan bill has been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign. This bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, on which there are no New Jersey representatives.
3. INTRODUCED: H.R. 1469 Welfare Benefit Reform
Representative Warren Davidson (R-OH), along with 5 Republican co-sponsors, seek to establish a commission to reform all income-based (means-tested) welfare programs so that they have (1) time limitations, and (2) limited to those programs that bring recipient's’ income above the poverty level specifically through the increase of employment, encouragement of healthy marriage, and furtherance of educational attainment. They seek to apply this reform to all types of welfare, including cash and general assistance, medical, food, housing, energy and utilities, job training, social services, child care and child development, and community development. Given its breadth, this bill has been sent to nine Committees, three of which have assigned it to a subcommittee. Welfare reform is a perpetual endeavor for Congress, for both Republicans and Democrats. This year, the Republican sponsors cite cost increases as the primary motive for reform. In 2013, the Congressional Budget Office determined that most of welfare’s cost increases can be attributed to population growth and increased costs of medical care. For additional context, Jordan Weisman at Slate wrote a brief yet comprehensive history of welfare reform in 2016.
The previous edition of Legislative Watch reviewed the following proposed legislation:
H.R. 149 Housing Fairness Act of 2017 (D-Green)
H.R. 202 Landlord Accountability Act of 2017 (D-Velasquez)
Since then, H.R. 482 and S. 103 have been getting the most attention from the media, including a comprehensive write-up by Citylab. Geographers have come out against both, “As written, this represents a direct attack on the ability of geographers and others to produce actionable and policy relevant research on racial disparities in this country.”
All of these bills remain in committee. PredictGov forecasts H.R. 482 has a 4% chance of being enacted and S. 103 has a 2% chance of being enacted.