ISNA supports a range of policies that promise to increase access to affordable housing for those in need. According to a recent study on the racial wealth gap conducted by the Center for American Progress, housing has always been — and continues to be — the main vehicle for families to build wealth and sustain it intergenerationally. Dependable housing is statistically proven to ameliorate all areas of life, including education access, employment opportunity, physical and mental health, and racial equality. Uthman ibn Affan reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “There is no right for the son of Adam except in these things: a house in which he lives, a garment to cover his nakedness, a piece of bread, and water” (Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2341). It is clear that our faith considers housing a universal human right.
Although housing is a basic necessity, the United States is in the midst of a housing crisis. Only one in four families who are qualify for housing assistance receive the help they need. Research studies have shown that stable housing supports healthy child development. However, children living in low-income families are twice as likely as other children to have moved in the past year, and three times as likely to live in a rented home.
The public institution that addresses these challenges is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a cabinet department in the Executive branch of the federal government that was founded in 1965 in order to provide “a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family.” Today, HUD runs a range of programs that focus on three main services to the American public: direct rental housing assistance, the construction of public housing, and community development programs. The majority of the agency’s $47 billion budget goes toward rental assistance, with about $38 billion spent in 2017 to support 4.7 million low-income households.
HUD also functions as an essential legal enforcement body for the 1968 Fair Housing Act, a provision of the Civil Rights Act which makes it unlawful to refuse to sell, rent to, or negotiate with a person due to their inclusion in a protected class relating to their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status. These protections ensure that people who face housing discrimination have legal recourse to justice, and property owners are held accountable. Additionally, thanks to a rule included in the 1968 legislation, all federal agencies are required by law to further the objectives of the Fair Housing Act.
Attacks on HUD have unsurprisingly escalated under the Trump administration. Two recently proposed Senate amendments would effectively bar HUD from implementing its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule and demand cuts to “duplicate” programs, respectively. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has flagged both of these initiatives as threats to states’ ability to use federal funds to meet the needs of their local communities.
The Islamic Society of North America unequivocally opposes cuts to HUD. Our organization supports increased funding for Housing & Urban Development (HUD) programs that help millions of low income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, veterans, and other vulnerable people afford their homes. Furthermore, studies that document the racial gap show that Black families are much less likely than white families to have regained the wealth they lost in the recent economic downturn. A long history of redlining, segregation, discriminatory financial practices, and low wages have all played a role in creating the challenges we face as a society today.
In order to continually tackle chronic disparities in economic access, ISNA supports the expansion of impactful policies highlighted by numerous policy research institutes that share our values. For example, HUD could increase opportunities for people to buy homes and start businesses by supporting access to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and strengthening the Fair Housing Act. Instead of enabling states to dilute its legal reach — as some lawmakers have recently attempted — strengthening the legal framework would increase accountability in desegregation and housing access processes. Lastly, in order to expand and better target the credits currently offered by HUD, we support an increasingly popular policy proposal to create a federal renters’ tax credit similar to the mortgage interest deduction available to homeowners.
When he said, “There is no right for the son of Adam except…a house in which he lives,” the Prophet ﷺ did not give any caveats. He did not specify that those who are poor, unemployed, disabled, or formerly incarcerated should be excluded from their rights amongst the children of Adam. Nor would he have endorsed housing discrimination based on race, religion, or ethnic background. Much like our position on food assistance, we assert that no quantity of local charity initiatives can meet the housing needs of low-income renters nationwide. In order to fulfill our religious mandate to provide housing for all, we must advocate for the funding of federal programs that reach millions, as we continue to simultaneously advocate for living wages that would enable people to secure their own housing without hardship.