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Affordable Housing Advocates Tell HUD and Congress – Keep Housing Affordable for Low Income Families

Washington DC – The Trump administration is seeking to impose work requirements, rent increases, and other burdens on millions of low income families who receive federal housing assistance through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), according to legislation released today. The proposal would leave even more low income people—including seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, children, and other vulnerable populations—without stable homes, making it harder for them to climb the economic ladder to achieve financial security and live with dignity. The administration’s proposal includes draft legislation, authored by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL), which was discussed in today’s House Financial Services Committee hearing.

One of the biggest barriers to economic prosperity for America’s lowest income families is the lack of decent, accessible, and affordable homes. Research shows that when people have stable homes that they can afford, they are better able to find employment, achieve economic mobility, age in place, perform better in school, and maintain improved health.

The Trump administration’s proposal to cut housing benefits by imposing increased rents and arbitrary work requirements would force low income families to cut back on investments in their future, including education, training, retirement savings, and healthcare. This proposal would not create the jobs and opportunities needed to lift families out of poverty, and in many cases, it would make it harder for struggling families to get ahead by cutting them off from the very housing benefits and services that make it possible for them to find and maintain jobs. Additionally, the proposed rent increases target the very poorest people, including seniors and people with disabilities, who are often living on fixed incomes and are already at significant risk of homelessness.

Currently, most families receiving federal housing assistance pay 30% of their adjusted income as rent. Under the proposal, families, with some exceptions, would instead have to pay 35% of their gross income or 35% of the amount earned by working at least 15 hours a week for four weeks at federal minimum wage, whichever is higher. With this provision, HUD would essentially set a new mandatory minimum rent of $150—three times higher than the current minimum rent that housing providers may apply to families. The bill would also increase rents for households with high medical or child care expenses by eliminating income deductions, the impact of which would disproportionately fall on seniors, people with disabilities and families with kids. The bill provides the HUD secretary with the authority to impose even higher rents through alternative rent structures and de facto time limits. And the proposal allows housing providers to broadly impose work requirements, without any resources to help people gain the skills they need for well-paying jobs.

Congress should reject any plan to cut housing benefits through increased rents, arbitrary work requirements, de facto time limits, and other burdens on America’s struggling families.

“Despite claims that these harmful proposals will increase “self-sufficiency,” rent hikes, de facto time limits, and arbitrary work requirements will only leave more people without stable housing, making it harder for them to climb the economic ladder. Proposing these changes under the guise of saving the government money, just months after giving massive tax breaks to wealthy people and corporations, is the height of cruel hypocrisy,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“The Administration’s proposal, like the one offered by Representative Ross, would radically alter rental assistance programs that haAdve proven effective at helping working poor families, seniors, and people with disabilities keep a roof over their heads. Both would raise rents, add complexity, and likely lead to more evictions and more homelessness,” said Will Fischer, senior policy analyst of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Proposals to raise rents and limit assistance to low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities will only increase poverty and homelessness. Such proposals would also be administratively burdensome and costly to implement, taking badly needed funding away from housing people. These proposals reject the realities of who relies upon HUD programs and basic research on improving the lives of low-income residents. What pretends to be a hand up is really a foot in the back,” said Shamus Roller, Executive Director of the National Housing Law Project.

“We were shocked to see rent increases targeting HUD’s lowest income senior residents in a draft proposal from the department charged with creating ‘quality affordable homes for all’ as well as in a draft bill circulating from a member of Congress. More than 1.5 million seniors rely on HUD’s programs to provide stable, quality housing. Increasing rents, including rents for the very lowest income seniors, will do much more harm than good. LeadingAge is hopeful that Congress will see fit to keep the federal housing safety net intact,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge.

“We support initiatives to increase employment and education related opportunities for low income residents,” said Denise Muha, Executive Director of the National Leased Housing Association. “However, the Administration’s rent reform proposal is likely to discourage such efforts and appears to be based on the incorrect premise that most families are not employed. The majority of non-elderly and disabled residents living in subsidized housing go to work every day. Asking them to pay a disproportionate amount of their low income for rent will likely increase eviction rates and homelessness and will certainly derail efforts to help such families achieve self-sufficiency.”

“Raising rents and imposing work requirements on non-elderly adults with disabilities would have disastrous consequences,” said Andrew Sperling, director of legislative and policy advocacy at National Alliance on Mental Illness and co-chair of the Consortium for Citizen with Disabilities Housing Task Force. “Higher rents—even with a phase-in for some households with non-elderly adults with disabilities—would be incredibly harmful. And the threat of losing housing assistance would certainly force people with disabilities back to into costly institutional settings such as nursing homes and psychiatric hospitals and even chronic homelessness. While people with disabilities can and want to work, work cannot be used as a condition of housing assistance.”

“The Administration’s proposal to increase rents on low-income residents is misguided and hurtful.  Study after study demonstrates that safe, stable housing is the bedrock of improving outcomes for poorer Americans,” stated Priya Jayachandran, president of the National Housing Trust. “The reality is that the majority of residents of assisted housing are elderly or disabled and the rest work hard already—often more than one job. Increasing their rent burden will make it tougher for these residents to meet their other basic costs of living like food, childcare and medical expenses. For what end?”

“Low-income Americans who rely on federal housing assistance will be required to pay higher rents out of their limited budgets. To keep their homes, they will be forced to cut meager funds available to meet food, health, education, work-related transportation, and other basic needs. The only major benefit will accrue to HUD—tenants will be contributing a larger share to housing costs, thereby reducing federal expenditures,” said Victor Bach, senior housing policy analyst of the Community Service Society (CSS).


Established in 1974 by Cushing N. Dolbeare, the National Low Income Housing Coalition is dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that assures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization and policy institute that conducts research and analysis on a range of government policies and programs. It is supported primarily by foundation grants.

The National Housing Law Project’s mission is to advance housing justice for poor people and communities. We achieve this by strengthening and enforcing the rights of tenants, increasing housing opportunities for underserved communities, and preserving and expanding the nation’s supply of safe and affordable homes.

The mission of LeadingAge is to be the trusted voice for aging. Our 6,000+ members and partners include nonprofit organizations representing the entire field of aging services, 38 state associations, hundreds of businesses, consumer groups, foundations and research centers.

Founded in 1972 the National Leased Housing Association is widely recognized as a vital and effective advocate for the nation’s affordable housing providers. This unique coalition is committed to public and private sector interaction as the best way to meet the nation’s rental housing needs.

The Consortium for Citizen with Disabilities Housing Task Force works with Congress and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to increase access to decent, safe and affordable housing for all people with disabilities and to protect the rights guaranteed under the Fair Housing Act.

The National Housing Trust is the nation’s leading expert in preserving, improving and maintaining affordable housing – ensuring that privately owned rental housing remains in our affordable housing stock and is sustainable over time.

The Community Service Society of New York (CSS) is an informed, independent, and unwavering voice for positive action on behalf of more than 3 million low-income New Yorkers. CSS draws on a 170-year history of excellence in addressing the root causes of economic disparity through research, advocacy, litigation, and innovative program models that strengthen and benefit all New Yorkers.