Brian sent along a column from the Washington Post about some high-earning residents of housing funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Blogger Lisa Rein’s post raises some important issues and gives short shrift to others.
A legitimate concern is that wealthy residents of public housing are taking a space that is needed by struggling families on the waiting list.
The issue that is not addressed by her focus on the small percentage of extremely well-off residents is that public housing residents need a way to save some money that doesn’t result in immediate eviction and enables them to get their own place in a reasonable time frame.
Read how Compass Working Capital has been successfully tackling that issue — if only on a small scale — here, in the Boston Fed’s Communities & Banking magazine.
A separate issue is that the new trend toward mixed-income housing is showing better results than relegating the poor to housing with other poor people only. If HUD really wants more mixed-income housing, they could allow residents to make more money, just not the very high amounts reported.
The Washington Post blogger cites a watchdog group’s fierce critique of the outside incomes some HUD residents have been allowed.
She writes, “Under HUD regulations, public housing tenants can stay as long as they want, no matter how much money they make, as long as they are good tenants. The agency is only required to consider a tenant’s income when an individual or family applies for housing, not once they’re in the system. This is different from the housing choice voucher program that used to be called Section 8, which gives families subsidies for rentals in private apartment buildings. That program has an annual income limit; tenants who go above it get less money.
“Tenants can wait years to get into both programs. HUD tweaked its policy on high-earning tenants in 2004, encouraging the thousands of housing authorities in the system to move families out of public housing if they earn more than the income limit for their area. While HUD gives money to the housing authorities, they’re run by states and local governments.
“But the 15 authorities investigators looked at told them they had no plans to evict these families, because if they did, poverty would continue to be concentrated in government-subsidized housing. The goal, they said, was to create diverse, mixed-income communities and allow tenants who are making good money to serve as role models for others. …
” ‘There are positive social benefits from having families with varying income levels residing in the same property,’ Milan Ozdinec, HUD’s deputy assistant secretary for public housing and voucher programs, wrote in a lengthy rebuttal to the inspector general. ‘Forcing families to leave public housing could impact their ability to maintain employment if they are not able to find suitable housing in the neighborhood,’ Ozdinec wrote. ‘Further, for families with children, it may be more difficult to find affordable child care, and it may impact school-age children’s learning if they are forced to change schools during a school year.’
“The watchdog said it didn’t believe that HUD should kick out every family that earns more than the income threshold. But at the very least, the agency should create ‘limits to avoid egregious cases.’ ”
Read more here.