Current Policy Discriminates Against Elderly, Disabled, Single Parents, Gays, Lesbians

The ACLU of Virginia today asked the Board of Commissioners of the Virginia Housing Development Authority to support a proposed policy change that would allow individuals not related by marriage or blood to combine incomes in order to qualify for VHDA loans for homebuyers.
The effect of the current policy is that unrelated elderly or disabled individuals, single parents, and gay or lesbian couples who live together cannot pool incomes to purchase a home through VHDA, even when these households meet all other criteria for obtaining loans.
The current policy was adopted in 1996, reversing a more expansive policy that had been in effect since 1994. The 1996 public hearings were acrimonious, as VHDA was accused of changing the policy to discriminate against the elderly, the disabled, and gays and lesbians.
Anticipating the proposed change, legislators in the 2002 General Assembly attempted to take preemptive action through a bill that would have frozen the VHDA policy in its current form. That bill, introduced by Delegate Ryan McDougle, passed the House of Delegates on a 61-38 vote, but was tied up in the Senate Laws Committee.
The proposed policy change would bring VHDA in line with similar state and federal housing programs across the country. The National Council of State Housing Agencies reports that it knows of no other state agency comparable to VHDA in the nation that confines joint purchases to persons related by blood or marriage. In addition, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA and other national level housing programs do not place such restrictions on prospective homebuyers.
In their letter to VHDA, ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis and Public Policy Director Aimee Perron write: “The proposed change brings only benefits. It will allow many elderly and disabled individuals on fixed incomes to realize the dream of owning their own homes. It will allow single parents struggling to raise their children on a one salary to come together under one roof, where they can share expenses and child rearing duties. It will also be one more small step toward recognizing that gay and lesbian families are entitled to equal treatment in our society.”
A copy of the full text Willis and Perron’s letter to VHDA can be found at http://acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/20030722-VHDA-Loan-Policy.pdf. VHDA will hold a public hearing on the proposed policy this Thursday, July 24, at 3:00 p.m.

Contacts: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of Virginia Aimee Perron, Legislative & Public Policy Director 804-644-8022

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