September 21, 2022

Schiff, Crow, Bush Urge HUD to End Exorbitant Pet Fees in Public Housing

Today, Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), and 26 Members of Congress urged the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department to curtail exorbitant pet fees for public housing residents, which can be a tremendous barrier for low-income families seeking safe and affordable housing.

In a bipartisan letter to Secretary Marcia Fudge, the members requested that HUD issue guidance to Public Housing Authorities discouraging them from charging pet fees and limiting maximum pet deposits to $300.

“These fees and deposits, often disguised under misleading characterizations as ‘pet rent’ or ‘pet security deposits,’ subject tenants to initial payments and/or subsequent monthly charges and can add hundreds of dollars to already overwhelming monthly rental costs, inhibiting access to affordable housing for low-income communities across the country that rely on Public Housing,” the members wrote in the letter.

Scientific evidence compiled by the CDC shows pets provide tangible health benefits for their owners, including decreased feelings of loneliness and increased opportunities for exercise and socialization. Most U.S. households have at least one pet, and approximately 23 million households have acquired a cat or dog since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.

But not everyone has an equal opportunity to love and care for a pet, especially renters. In a 2021 inclusive housing survey, more than 70% of renters said that pet-friendly housing is difficult to find and 59% reported pet-friendly housing as too expensive. Studies have also shown that low-income communities and communities of color pay disproportionately higher fees to keep pets in their homes. As a result, exorbitant pet fees can force some families to choose between their beloved pets and affordable housing – and at their worst, they can exacerbate housing insecurity for low-income pet owners who understandably don’t want to part with their companions.

“As part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s work to reduce barriers to safe and affordable housing for low-income individuals, we urge you to issue guidance discouraging pet fees for all residents of Public Housing and limiting maximum pet deposits to $300,” the members continued.

Schiff, Bush, and their colleagues have championed efforts to help pet owners in public housing secure safe and stable living situations, without having to give up their loving companions. In November 2021, they were joined by Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.) and Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) in introducing the Pets Belong with Families Act – a bill that would prohibit vague and sweeping restrictions against dogs based on breed or size in public housing.

The bipartisan letter is co-signed by Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), André Carson (D-Ind.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Ted W. Lieu (D-Calif.), Dwight Evans (D-Penn.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.), Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Madeleine Dean (D-Penn.), Jesús "Chuy" García (D-Ill.), Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Marie Newman (D-Ill.), and Deborah Ross (D-N.C.). It is also endorsed by American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, American Kennel Club, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Best Friends Animal Society, Humane Rescue Alliance, Humane Society Legislative Fund, Michelson Center for Public Policy, My Dog is My Home, National Fair Housing Alliance, National Low Income Housing Coalition, RedRover, The Humane Society of the United States, and The Street Dog Coalition.

Click here to read the letter or read the full text below:

Dear Secretary Fudge:

We write to express our concerns regarding the charging of pet fees and deposits in Public Housing. These fees and deposits, often disguised under misleading characterizations as “pet rent” or “pet security deposits”, subject tenants to initial payments and/or subsequent monthly charges and can add hundreds of dollars to already overwhelming monthly rental costs, inhibiting access to affordable housing for low-income communities across the country that rely on Public Housing.

Nearly one in five households acquired a cat or dog since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, accounting for approximately 23 million American households based on the 2019 U.S. Census. Scientific evidence compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms that the human-animal bond provides tangible health benefits including a decrease in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels; decreased feelings of loneliness; and increased opportunities for exercise and socialization. Lastly, more than 70% of residents in an inclusive housing survey said that pet-friendly housing is difficult to find, and 59% reported pet-friendly housing as too expensive.

Current guidance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allows residents of Public Housing to maintain one or more household pet(s), subject to “reasonable requirements” established by local Public Housing Authorities. These requirements may include unlimited non-refundable pet fees and refundable pet deposits, which perpetuate socio-economic inequities and exacerbate housing insecurity for low-income families who understandably do not want to give up their beloved pets. As a result, families are forced to either surrender their pets to animal shelters, often at a cost to taxpayers, or choose inferior housing situations to keep them.

Under current HUD guidelines, certain HUD-assisted multifamily rental housing serving seniors and persons with disabilities may not collect pet deposits exceeding $300. As part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s work to reduce barriers to safe and affordable housing for low-income individuals, we urge you to issue guidance discouraging pet fees for all residents of Public Housing and limiting maximum pet deposits to $300.

Thank you for considering this request, which would help reduce income disparities in pet ownership and prevent loving families from having to relinquish their pets.

Sincerely,

Members of Congress

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