(June, 14, 2021, Washington, D.C.) – On June 8, U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Grace Meng (NY-06), introduced the Housing is a Human Right Act of 2021, a bill to “address and end root causes of homelessness; transition communities towards providing housing for all; and ensure full democratic participation of persons experiencing homelessness.”
The National Homeless Law Center is proud to have worked with Representative Jayapal to develop the Housing is a Human Right Act.
This transformative legislation will authorize more than $300 billion for crucial housing infrastructure to reduce homelessness across America. Endorsed by dozens of groups working on the frontlines of the growing housing instability crisis, this urgent proposal will invest 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.
“Our Nation was founded on the principle that everyone is entitled to the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and, as has been shown through the COVID pandemic, it has never been more clear that those rights must include the basic human right to housing,” said Eric Tars, Legal Director at the National Homelessness Law Center. “The Housing is a Human Right Act will help communities address homelessness with housing, not handcuffs; with services, not sweeps. To help our fellow Americans living on the streets in the coming months and beyond, we must understand that housing is health care, and both are human rights.”
This bill comes at a time when housing and health matter more than ever—especially for those who experience homelessness disproportionally: youth, communities of color, transgender and gender non-conforming people, people with disabilities, seniors, and veterans. Housing as a human right means housing justice.
“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,” said Congresswoman Jayapal. “This crisis of housing instability is human-created, but that means that we can fix it—and we must. By investing hundreds of 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 as a human right has been championed by U.S. leaders from the time of President Roosevelt, and is embodied in international human rights documents, as well as state and local legislation. The Housing Is A Human Right Act recognizes this commitment, and implements it by providing funding for housing and supportive services, and, crucially, prioritizing funding for communities who invest in community-driven alternatives to criminalization of homelessness.
As unsheltered homelessness has grown across the country, so, too, have communities’ counter-productive attempts to criminalize individuals for simply sheltering themselves or sleeping on the streets in the absence of alternatives. This costs communities more, and creates barriers like criminal records, fines and fees that prevent people from finding homes. By tying funding to toward alternatives to criminalization, the bill ensures federal dollars will go further to actually end homelessness.
“To effectively address the dual crisis of homelessness and housing instability, we must implement the human right to housing, and we believe this bill will do that,” said Antonia Fasanelli, Executive Director at the National Homelessness Law Center. “We hope the Housing is a Human Right Act propels more lawmakers to discuss the homelessness crisis, housing affordability, and combating the criminalization of homelessness. We look forward to continuing our work with Representative Jayapal’s office and encouraging our partners and supporters to endorse the Housing is a Human Right Act. Together we will push for the right to adequate, stable, permanently affordable housing to end homelessness in America.”
To view the full text of the bill, click here.
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (the Law Center) is the only national organization dedicated solely to using the power of the law to prevent and end homelessness. With the support of a large network of pro bono lawyers, we address the immediate and long-term needs of people who are homeless or at risk through outreach and training, advocacy, impact litigation, and public education.