House Passes Velazquez Measure to Increase Protections for Victims of Domestic Violence
NEW YORK – Last evening, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1851 The Section 8 Housing Voucher Reform Act, which included an amendment introduced by Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.). The measure promotes greater safety for survivors of domestic violence, by providing security against eviction resulting from domestic disturbances, and improved confidentiality for the abused. Domestic violence is a major problem across the country, with 71 family related deaths in New York City alone last year. These provisions will ensure that victims are more secure in their ability to find and maintain housing, while being protected from their abusers.
“I am pleased that the House has passed this important measure and that steps will be taken to further protect victims of abuse,” said Congresswoman Velázquez. “Domestic violence can consume so many aspects of the lives of a woman and her children – it should not affect her ability to maintain affordable housing as well.”
The protections in the amendment will extend to the Housing Innovation Program (HIP) several provisions that were made into law by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization in 2005. One aspect will prohibit a public housing agency from terminating housing voucher assistance based on incidents of violence. While abuse as cause for eviction may seem surprising, if a woman is being harassed or otherwise victimized, the noise or property damage that may result from such a confrontation could currently be grounds for her removal. In a recent nationwide survey, legal service providers reported 580 documented cases where individuals were evicted due to the violence committed against them – this accounted for approximately 10 percent of all cases surveyed.
“Domestic violence should never be grounds for eviction. It makes a difficult situation even harder for the victim and her family, and this amendment will ensure that victims will feel more secure in their housing status,” said Congresswoman Velázquez.
Confidentiality protections are also critical to protecting women impacted by domestic violence. Many victims try to move on with their lives, yet are forced to deal with the possibility that their former abuser or stalker is trying to locate them. If certain identifying characteristics are made public - even to a prospective landlord - such as addresses or social security numbers, abusers can potentially use that information to find their victims. These possible disclosures discourage individuals from leaving abusive situations for fear of retribution. With this measure, women will now have the ability to keep a variety of such identifying information private, helping them to make a clean break with past abuse.
“These are simple yet important steps to help combat the serious problem of domestic violence within our country,” said Congresswoman Velázquez. “These two provisions will help abused women and their families feel more confident in their new lives.”