Housing Secretary Ben Carson says that his new plan to raise the rent for the poorest Americans by 20% will push people to find work. But what his plan will really do is leave thousands of families homeless.
On Thursday, the AP put out a disturbing report about HUD’s new disastrous plan to increase the rent for the poorest American families. For people like Ebony Morris and her four young children this could mean homelessness.
“Morris lives in Charleston, South Carolina, where most households receiving federal housing assistance would see their rent go up an average 26 percent, according to an analysis done by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and provided exclusively to The Associated Press. But her increase would be nearly double that.”
“Overall, the analysis shows that in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, low-income tenants — many of whom have jobs — would have to pay roughly 20 percent more each year for rent under the plan. That rent increase is about six times greater than the growth in average hourly earnings, putting the poorest workers at an increased risk of homelessness because wages simply haven’t kept pace with housing expenses.”
Morris said that her monthly rent would go from $403 to $600. “I saw public housing as an option to get on my feet, to pay 30 percent of my income and get myself out of debt and eventually become a homeowner,” she said. “But this would put us in a homeless state.”
This new HUD proposal, which still needs congressional approval, will affect more than 4 million low-income households receiving HUD assistance. According to HUD, 2 million of them will be affected immediately. The other 2 million would see their rent increase phased in over six years.
In an interview on Fox News, Ben Carson said, “It’s our attempt to give poor people a way out of poverty.”
According to the AP report, families will be disproportionately affected by this disastrous plan. Of the 8.3 million people who will be affected by the HUD proposal, more than 3 million of them are young children.
“There’s no evidence that raising rents causes people to work more,” said Will Fischer, a senior policy analyst at the policy center, which advocates for the poor. “For most of these rent increases, I don’t think there’s even a plausible theory for why they would encourage work.”
“This proposal to raise rents on low-income people doesn’t magically create well-paying jobs needed to lift people out of poverty,” said Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Instead it just makes it harder for struggling families to get ahead by potentially cutting them off from the very stability that makes it possible for them to find and keep jobs.”
At the end of April, the “Make Affordable Housing Work Act” was announced by the Trump administration; it will allow housing authorities to impose work requirements on people who receive housing assistance. It will also increase the percentage of income poor renters are required to pay from 30% to 35%. And it will raise the minimum rent from $50 to $150 per month.
Currently, families can deduct from their gross income $480 per child when calculating for assistance. But with this new proposal that deduction will be eliminated. Deductions for child care and medical care are also being eliminated.
“The Department of Housing and Urban Development says elderly or disabled households would be exempt from the changes, but an estimated 314,000 households stand to lose their elderly or disabled status and see their rents go up, according to the outside analysis.”
The president and CEO of the Charleston Housing Authority, Donald Cameron, said that this rent increase will be “catastrophic” for the metropolitan area.
“We’d lose a lot of people within a very short time: the ones with the smallest pocket books, the least discretionary income,” he said. “What do they do? If you take away that safety net, they’re in free fall. Where do they go?”
And others are arguing that the entire proposal is based on a faulty assumption. Ben Carson and the Trump administration are saying that poor people who are receiving housing assistance are basically lazy people who aren’t working. That’s simply not true.
The general counsel for the Charleston Housing Authority, Melissa Maddox Evans, said, “There’s an assumption that many of the participants are not employed when they are. Most tenants here work two or three jobs. When they are going out and finding work, are they going to make enough to accommodate that increase?”
One Charleston woman who worries that she and her children will be homeless if her rent goes up said, “I work every day and I’m trying my hardest. My main focus is to make sure my children are educated and to break this cycle. But taking away resources for moms? I never thought I’d be in a situation like this.”