Washington DC – The Trump administration is seeking to impose work requirements and rent increases on millions of low income families who receive federal housing assistance, according to draft legislation authored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The proposal would leave even more low income people—including seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, children, and other vulnerable populations—without a stable home, making it harder for them to climb the economic ladder to achieve financial security and live with dignity.
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 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 $152.25—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. HUD also proposes to allow public housing agencies and owners of project-based housing communities to impose minimum work requirements of up to 32 hours a week with few exceptions.
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 a stable home 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 arbitrary work requirements and increased rents 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.
“Increasing rent burdens for the lowest income seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children is cruel and will only force more impossible choices between paying rent or paying for medicine, groceries, and other necessities. HUD may try to portray this as increasing ‘self-sufficiency,’ but it’s more about punishing low income people than helping them,” says Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
“The proposal to raise rents and impose work requirements is administratively burdensome, ineffective and will increase poverty. The proposal flaunts the realities of who is housed in HUD programs and basic research on improving the lives of families and seniors. What pretends to be a hand up is really a kick 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.’ 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.
“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).
"Imposing a work requirement on non-elderly adults with disabilities would have disastrous consequences," said Andrew Sperling, director of legislative and policy advocacy at NAMI. "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."
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 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.
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.
NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.