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NY blasts ‘cruel’ HUD proposal to evict immigrants from public housing

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The city slammed the rule as “weaponizing immigration status”

The Henry Rutgers Houses in the Lower East Side.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

City and state lawmakers this week blasted a proposed federal rule change that would evict undocumented tenants and put thousands of New York families at risk of homelessness.

The proposed rule, which was put forward by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in May, would prevent households with so-called mixed families—where at least one member is undocumented—from receiving public housing subsidies. The change would be a departure from current rules, under which immigrant families are allowed to live in public housing so long as one member is a legal resident of the United States.

Such a change could impact some 108,000 people living in 25,000 mixed households across the country, data from HUD shows. Seventy-two percent of those families reside in three states: California, Texas, and New York. New York state accounts for 12 percent of those households, and in New York City alone, 2,800 of those families are made up of 11,400 people, including elderly and disabled people and some 4,900 children—many of whom are U.S. citizens or have eligible immigration status, and are entitled to housing assistance. The de Blasio administration condemned the plan in comments to HUD.

“The City finds the Proposed Rule particularly troubling in light of its disproportionate impact on our city and state,” the city wrote in July 2 comments to the Trump administration. “While the proposed changes would undoubtedly have detrimental impacts on thousands of families across the country, there would be a significantly disproportionate negative impact on the City.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and eight state agencies joined the city in denouncing the “needlessly cruel” proposal and are also submitting comments in opposition to the rule change. “In New York, we know that our diversity is our greatest asset, and we will not stand idly by as Washington continues its all-out assault on our immigrant communities,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The New York City Council also weighed in on the rule change with a 13-page long public comment opposing the policy. “It will harm our city’s residents irreparably,” wrote City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “It will increase poverty and homelessness. It is unjust, discriminatory, and runs counter to our city’s and our country’s values.”

The de Blasio administration argues that the change is unlawful because it violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), chiefly because it conflicts with Congress’s intent when it passed the Housing and Community Development Act of 1980 and, therefore, does not comply with existing law. City officials also say that the proposed rule “would exacerbate rather than alleviate the Nation’s affordable housing shortage and the associated homelessness problems, [and] create an undue burden on states and localities to address problems created by the Proposed Rule.”

The city’s Section 8 program, which provides rental assistance to eligible low- and moderate-income families, could suffer under the change because prorated assistance includes a lower subsidy per household, allowing the city to serve more families. Without additional funding for Section 8 to cover increased costs, the city’s ability to aid all families would be reduced and “lead to a shrinking Section 8 program,” the city says.

Families fleeing public housing would likely move into precarious living situations, such as overcrowded homes and those with subpar living conditions. Those unable to afford the city’s high cost of housing would inevitably end up in homeless shelters—adding to New York City’s dire homelessness crisis. Moreover, municipal agencies expect to face financial and staffing strains under the shift as they work to support impacted New Yorkers.

The rule, which was originally announced in April, is part of a wider crackdown on immigration by President Donald Trump and comes on the heels of numerous attempts to cut funding to public housing and rental assistance programs. HUD Secretary Ben Carson and the White House have argued that the proposed rule would free up resources for legally eligible recipients and shorten waitlists for both public housing and Section 8 vouchers.

“Thanks to [Trump’s] leadership, we are putting America’s most vulnerable first,” Carson tweeted in April when the Trump administration announced the rule. “Our nation faces affordable housing challenges and hundreds of thousands of citizens are waiting for many years on waitlists to get housing assistance.”

But the de Blasio administration fired back, calling the proposal “nothing more than a policy to rip families apart.”

“This proposed rule change isn’t about fairness or reining in scarce public resources,” Louise Carroll, commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, said in a statement. “It’s about weaponizing immigration status and pushing 25,000 mixed-status families across the country out of their homes.”