Joseph Pennisi
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December 11, 2018

Working families, the elderly and disabled will be poorer after HUD reforms

Working families, the elderly and disabled will be poorer after HUD reforms

Joseph Pennisi, executive director at the Florida Policy Institute, authored a guest column for the Orlando Sentinel in response to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s plan to institute “reforms” that would, as Pennisi noted, “cause more people and families to become homeless and punish Floridians who already face the biggest obstacles to making ends meet.” Pennisi’s commentary was published side by side with HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s column claiming that the current housing assistance system is “not only unfair and confusing, it is also getting more expensive every year.” The following is an excerpt from Pennisi's column:

Where you live shapes your opportunities in life, and the fact that so many of our fellow Floridians can’t afford a decent home for themselves and their families affects all of us. Yet, just as Central Florida begins making progress toward helping struggling families find safe, decent, affordable places to live, along comes a new proposal from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that will take us in the wrong direction. Make no mistake, the agency’s proposal will cause more people and families to become homeless and punish Floridians who already face the biggest obstacles to making ends meet.

While Housing Secretary Ben Carson’s rhetoric in support of the measure focuses on so-called ‘reforms,’ the reality is very different. Let’s detail what the proposal would actually do:

  • It would increase rents on most families living in housing supported by HUD. Currently, residents in assisted housing pay 30 percent of their adjusted income for rent with the federal support making up the difference. Under the proposed legislation, that figure would rise to 35 percent of the family’s gross income. Shifting to gross income means they would not be able to deduct expenses like medical care and child care in determining how much rent they pay.
  • It would triple the minimum rent for these families, from $50 to $150 per month. According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, this would raise rents the most for the poorest families receiving rental assistance from HUD. There are approximately 1.7 million people in these families, and the vast majority of them have incomes of less than $7,000. Included in those families are almost 1 million children. Taking an additional $1,200 from them to cover the higher rent would make it even harder for them to afford basic necessities.
  • It would increase rents on the elderly and people with disabilities. The poorest and least able to afford housing in the private market would see their rents increased over time to 30 percent of their gross income with a minimum rent of $50 per month.

Read more on orlandosentinel.com

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