CHN: Proposed HUD Rule Could Harm More than 100,000

More than 100,000 people could be affected if a proposed rule dictating who may and may not live in public housing is enacted. The proposed Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulation would prohibit “mixed status families” from living in public and other subsidized housing. Mixed status families are households that include members who are eligible and others who are ineligible for housing assistance based on their immigrant status.

Currently, HUD allows families to live together in subsidized housing even if one family member is ineligible so long as the housing subsidy is prorated to exclude the ineligible person from the assistance.

The rule has been submitted for public comment; comments will be accepted until July 9.

An impact analysis prepared by career staff at HUD shows how devastating the proposal would be. It found that 108,000 people would be affected. About 70 percent of those people are citizens or legal residents and three-quarters of those – 55,000 – are children.

According to the analysis, HUD assumes that some of the affected families would split up because the ineligible family member would be asked to leave so that the rest of the family could still receive aid. But it says most of the families would likely move out of their proposed homes. “HUD expects that fear of the family being separated would lead to prompt evacuation by most mixed households, whether that fear is justified,” the agency says.

Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in an interview with NPR’s Pam Fessler that the proposal is cruel. “The cruelty of it is really breathtaking and it would do real harm to kids and to families.”

HUD Secretary Ben Carson said the rule is needed to help low-income Americans who are in need of housing assistance and may face lengthy waits. “Our nation faces affordable housing challenges and hundreds of thousands of citizens are waiting for many years on waitlists to get housing assistance,” he said.

But Carson’s own words are undermined by the HUD analysis, which predicts that the rule would lead to a decrease in those receiving housing assistance as well as a decrease in the amount of funding available to those in need. This is in part because mixed status families tend to receive smaller subsidies than other families, and in part because other families’ incomes tend to be lower and thus qualify for higher subsidies, which would put added stress on available benefits.

“Another, and perhaps the likeliest scenario, would be that HUD would have to reduce the quantity and quality of assisted housing in response to higher costs,” the agency says. For public housing, that would likely “have an impact on the quality of service, e.g., maintenance of the units and possibly deterioration of the units that could lead to vacancy.”

Housing advocates are viewing the proposal with alarm.

“The administration has made clear its intention to make life more difficult for immigrant families by restricting their ability to access basic needs programs,” said Olivia Golden, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). “The proposed rule by HUD continues this pattern of attacks – this time by threatening the roof over their heads and directly undermining the wellbeing of citizen children.”

Melissa Boteach, Vice President for Income Security and Child Care/Early Learning at the National Women’s Law Center, called the proposal “a blatant attempt by the Trump Administration to pit struggling families against one another in the wake of a $1.9 billion tax cut for millionaires and corporations.”

“Forcing thousands of immigrant families to make the unconscionable decision to either break up to receive housing assistance or forgo housing assistance altogether will not fix the nation’s housing crisis – raising wages and making significant new investments in affordable housing will.”

Late last week, Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) introduced H.R. 2716, which would prevent HUD from implementing the rule. She was joined by Reps. Lou Correa (D-CA), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Chuy Garcia (D-IL). The measure immediately was backed by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Housing Law Project, and Texas Housers.

Housing and Homelessness