Pet-Friendly Affordable Housing

Couple with dog

The ASPCA believes that there is no reason that people willing and able to care for their pets should be forced to part with them due to a lack of housing options. We believe that pets and people belong together, financial circumstances alone are not reliable indicators of the capacity to love and care for a companion animal, and strong bonds between people and pets make for stronger communities.

Unfortunately, market factors have made it increasingly difficult for lower income households to maintain a pet. A recent study found that lower income communities and communities of color are more likely to pay disproportionately higher fees to keep pets in their homes. More broadly, there is evidence that there are far fewer pet-friendly housing options available to lower income households. This burden may lead to both housing insecurity and owners surrendering their pets to local shelters and rescues. Furthermore, it is a primary reason for a growing socioeconomic disparity in households with pets.

Fortunately, there are a growing number of government-supported housing programs that consider pets as family members. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which implements many federal affordable housing programs, has supported pet-friendly affordable housing for over 20 years. HUD has required all its Public Housing and HUD-insured or financed housing for senior or disabled households to be pet-friendly since 2000 and 2008, respectively. 

One reason that HUD moved in this direction was an acknowledgement that allowing pets is a significant way to contribute to the overall well-being of families living in affordable housing. Pets provide companionship, comfort, consolation and a sense of security. They can have positive impacts on us at every stage of life—numerous studies have suggested that pet owners visit doctors less often, recover from illness more quickly and have more positive outlooks than those who do not have pets. These benefits are consistent with goals to holistically address the social, economic and health outcomes for residents of affordable housing.

Using the HUD programs as a model, the ASPCA has successfully led a number of legislative efforts to expand access to pet-friendly affordable housing. In 2017, landmark legislation was passed to pave the way for pet-friendly housing available to lower income Californians. California Assembly Bill 1137 requires all future housing developments financed by the state’s housing finance department to be pet-friendly, creating thousands of new housing opportunities for families and their pets.

In the years after, similar legislation has been passed in the County of Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles and the State of Nevada. These landmark protections for animals will ensure pets and the people who care for them are not needlessly separated due to arbitrary restrictions.

In 2021, a federal bill to help expand pet-friendly public housing was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Pets Belong with Families Act would prohibit vague and sweeping restrictions against dogs in public housing based on breed or size, allowing families to access affordable and stable housing while keeping their pets with them. This bill would still allow housing authorities to exercise discretion in restricting potentially dangerous individual animals, but it would remove housing barriers for thousands of responsible pet owners. Additionally, the ASPCA has helped lead efforts to include language in the annual appropriations bill that funds HUD, recognizing that pet restrictions are harmful and encouraging the agency to remove existing barriers.

Sources available upon request; contact [email protected] with specific questions about this content.