Ben Carson, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), unveiled a set of proposals this week that would drastically affect residents of low-income housing across the country.
Under the proposed Making Affordable Housing Work Act, rules introduced under the United States Housing Act of 1937 would be amended, and minimum rents raised to whichever is higher: 35 percent of a family’s monthly income or 35 percent of the amount earned by working 15 hours a week for four weeks at the federal minimum wage, which amounts to around $150 at the current federal minimum wage.
There are some exemptions in the proposal: the elderly and disabled would not be subject to these changes, and hardship exemptions would also be in place. But all the same, New York reports that “[a]bout 712,000 households would see their rents rise to the new monthly minimum of $150, HUD officials said.”
Many of those affected would be New Yorkers—namely, the more than 400,000 people who currently live in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings. The public housing complex is the largest in the country, and its buildings make up eight percent of the city’s rental housing, according to the agency’s 2017 statistics.
NYCHA currently sets its rents according to a flat rent schedule, which stipulates that residents “pay either 30% of their adjusted gross household income towards rent or pay the flat rent amount, whichever is lower.” Under Carson’s proposal, that rate would be raised to 35 percent, an increase that may be untenable for many of the agency’s residents. (Its rates are already higher than many can afford, as evinced by NYCHA’s issues with collecting rent from tenants in recent years.)
“We cannot stand by as Washington continues to target the most vulnerable in our City,” Jasmine Blake, a NYCHA spokesperson, said in a statement. “This legislation would be a disaster for low income, vulnerable New Yorkers, who are already struggling to pay their rent every month. This increase would be a devastating new burden, shifting what has traditionally always been a federally subsidized program since the conception of public housing onto those who can least afford it.”
The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which regulates affordable housing, also weighed in with a tweet:
Already, the Trump administration has taken aim at NYCHA in its proposed FY2019 budget, which calls for a significant decrease to the Public Housing Operating Fund, as well as eliminating the Public Housing Capital Fund in its entirety—a move that would take $346 million away from NYCHA’s budget for repairs—and doing away with nearly 10,000 Section 8 vouchers, creating a shortfall of more than $124 million.
But the proposal could not be enacted without Congressional approval, and as our colleagues at Curbed noted, “legislative efforts have ground to a near halt as the 2018 midterm elections approach.”