by Lynda Carson
HUD Secretary Ben Carson launched his latest attack on low-income renters in HUD’s subsidized housing programs by announcing proposals for damaging housing cutbacks on April 25, 2018. Congressional representatives and housing experts spoke out with great urgency in warning that Carson’s proposals would harm low-income tenants across the nation.
HUD Secretary Carson wants to triple the rents on some tenants, and raise from 30 percent to 35 percent the share of a household’s income that it must pay in rent. Additionally, Carson wants to add more work requirements on those receiving assistance in HUD housing programs.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) latest proposals to raise the rents on the poor in HUD’s affordable housing programs place thousands of Bay Area low-income renters at risk of losing their housing and becoming homeless. HUD’s proposals to raise the rent on veterans, the elderly, blind, disabled, chronically ill, and low-income families must be rejected by Congress.
Based on HUD’s own records, 79 percent of HUD-assisted households have an average annual income below $20,000, and 40 percent of those households have an annual income of $10,000 to $19,999.
In 2017, according to HUD, the Oakland Housing Authority had 13,422 federally subsidized housing units in its Section 8 inventory, and 2,122 units in its low-rent inventory (formerly known as public housing units).
San Francisco had 9,711 units in its Section 8 housing inventory, and 3,756 units in its low-rent inventory. San Francisco was in the process of privatizing more than 4,584 public housing units under the RAD program.
The Berkeley Housing Authority had 1,935 units in its Section 8 inventory, and has sold its 75 public housing townhouses to out-of-state billionaires.
The Richmond Housing Authority had 1,851 units in its Section 8 subsidized housing inventory, and 559 units in its low-rent inventory.
According to a 2017 study from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, some of the most cost-burdened renter communities in the nation are in California. Examples are numerous, and according to Zumper during April 2018, with some of the highest rents in the nation the median rent in Oakland for a one-bedroom apartment was $2,140. In San Francisco, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $3,400, and the median rent in San Jose for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,470.
HUD Secretary Carson’s proposals for housing cutbacks were denounced across the nation.
On April 25, the Congressional Black Caucus denounced Secretary Carson’s proposals in an eloquent defense of the humanity of poor people and families: “It is ironic that a man who used taxpayer dollars to buy a $30,000 dining room table for the federal agency he leads wants to raise rent on poor people.
“Secretary Carson’s immoral, ill-advised proposal is the latest example of the Trump Administration’s war on poor people. It is clear he is not familiar with the Bible story about the Good Samaritan who comes upon someone in need and is inspired by his faith to help them. Thankfully this proposal would require Congressional approval before it can become law, and the Congressional Black Caucus will work with our colleagues in Congress to oppose it and other related measures. The Congressional Black Caucus will also continue to stand up and speak out for the underprivileged and underrepresented.”
The Congressional Black Caucus warned of a rising tide of sickness, homelessness and hunger in the nation resulting from the cumulative impact of the cutbacks to Medicaid, federal food programs and housing programs.
“In addition to this proposal, the Trump Administration is making changes to Medicaid, housing programs, and nutrition programs that would result in sicker families, increased homelessness, and hungrier children. Plain and simple, this is not who we are as a country and these actions will result in a less perfect union.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Kamala Harris both rejected Secretary Carson’s proposals to raise the rent on the poor in California, and claimed that his proposals would worsen the already dire affordable housing crisis in California.
Letters from Senator Tina Smith and members of Congress in New York also rejected Secretary Carson’s proposals to raise the rent on low-income tenants in HUD’s subsidized housing programs.
The National Alliance of HUD Tenants also denounced Carson’s proposals: “Elected leaders of the national US tenants union today denounced the housing bill proposed April 25 by HUD Secretary Ben Carson as ‘a vicious and cruel assault on the poorest of the poor.’
“Carson’s proposals will push millions of people from their homes. Carson’s plan is not about moving people to work — it’s about needlessly cutting people from programs that enable them to find work,” said Ed Lucas, 59, President of the National Alliance of HUD Tenants (NAHT).
“Millions will be displaced if these deeply cruel proposals see the light of day,” Lucas said. “Congress should reject them out of hand.” Lucas is a Marine Corp vet and director of a neighborhood jobs center, who lives in a resident-owned, HUD-assisted building in Chicago.
According to the Topeka Housing Authority, HUD rent increases are potentially “devastating” for residents in Topeka public housing, if they’re enacted.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities warned that the proposals by the Trump Administration and Secretary Ben Carson will harm all of the low-income tenants in HUD’s subsidized housing:
“The legislation would raise rents for seniors and people with disabilities now receiving assistance, despite administration claims to the contrary.”
The plan would have these effects: “Raise, from 30 to 35 percent, the share of a household’s income that it must pay in rent if it includes anyone aged 18 to 65 who doesn’t qualify as disabled under the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s limited definition. Rent increases would average $117 per month. Most of the increase would fall on low-wage workers, who typically have little if any money to cover added costs after paying for other basic needs and work expenses like child care and transportation.
“Raise the minimum rents for households with little or no income, most frequently by about $100 a month. Virtually all of the 700,000 or so affected families have incomes below the poverty line, so they would find it very hard to pay higher rents. The 1 million or so children in those families are already among the nation’s most vulnerable; the Trump plan would expose them to added hardship and risk.
“Eliminate income deductions that reduce rents for certain households that likely have high out-of-pocket expenses. About half of these deductions go to elderly and disabled households, nearly all of which would see rent increases from the change. The plan would also eliminate a child care deduction that enables many working parents with rental assistance to afford to work.”
“In addition, the plan would give HUD unlimited authority to impose additional rent increases, allowing it to drastically cut rent subsidies for low-income Americans without congressional approval.”
Making matters worse, according to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, the Trump Administration plans to take back (rescind) $15 billion in funding that is sitting in old spending accounts, including HUD’s accounts.
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Housing Subcommittee Rejects HUD Cuts
by Lynda Carson
This week, in late May, the House Appropriations Transportation-HUD (THUD) Subcommittee rejected many of HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s cruel budget-cutting proposals that would have harmed millions of elderly, disabled, and low-income renters in HUD’s subsidized housing programs. The budget-cutting proposals still have to go before the full House and Senate, and then be signed into law by President Donald Trump, before they are enacted.
However, reportedly, the subcommittee still has slashed a disastrous 6.8 percent from the budget of the Section 202 housing program for the elderly, and a massive 32.9 percent from the budget of the Section 811 housing program for the disabled. Additionally, they slashed 11.9 percent from the budget of the affordable housing Home Program. If enacted, the budget cuts will affect thousands of elderly, disabled and low-income renters in the Bay Area, and all across the nation.
Many affordable housing projects in Oakland may be affected by the proposed budget cuts to the Home Investment Partnerships (Home) program if enacted, including Effie’s House in Oakland, Bancroft Senior Homes, Bishop Nichols Senior Housing, California Hotel, Clinton Commons, Coolidge Ct, EC Reems Gardens, Eastmont Court, Fruitvale Transit Village, Harrison Hotel, International BLVD Family Housing, Lion Creek Crossings, Madison Lofts, Mandela Gateway Rental Housing, Merritt Crossings, Northgate Apartments, and other affordable housing projects.
Redwood Gardens Senior Housing in Berkeley is one of the many local affordable housing projects that may face budget cuts if the proposed budget cuts to the Section 202 program are enacted, including Bancroft Senior Homes, and Maggie Kuhn Apartments.
The National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has published some of the latest information regarding the proposed budget cuts to HUD. Additionally, according to the NLIHC, “Despite new resources and overall increased funding available to HUD, the amounts provided in the House bill are likely not enough to renew all existing contracts provided through Housing Choice Vouchers and Project-Based Rental Assistance.”
This means that even though many of HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s cruel budget-cutting proposals have been rejected, many elderly, disabled and low-income renters still face drastic budget cuts to the subsidized housing programs in Oakland, the Bay Area, and across the country.
Tenants are urged to tell Congress to reject any budget cuts to HUD’s subsidized affordable housing programs.
Lynda Carson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org