Senate Considers Bill That Would Put Health and Safety of Many Public Housing Residents at Risk

The Senate debated a bill, the “Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act” (S. 2155) on March 8 that includes provisions that would undermine the physical integrity of many public housing developments, putting the health and safety of residents at risk and destabilizing communities. The bill also incorporates the “Protect Tenants at Foreclosure Act” and the “Family Self-Sufficiency Act,” which provide important protections and opportunities for low income renters. NLIHC sent a letter to the Senate outlining its concerns.  The Senate will not vote on the bill until at least next week because the two parties were unable to agree on which of the 141 amendments filed so far will be heard. 

HUD rules currently provide a concrete, quantitative measure to evaluate the performance of small public housing authorities (PHA). S. 2155 eliminates that measure and gives HUD discretion for labeling a small PHA as “troubled.” The bill states that a small PHA may be designated as troubled if HUD determines the PHA has failed to maintain its properties “in a satisfactory physical condition,” but the legislation does not define what that entails. Such an unclear and subjective standard could lead to poor outcomes in enforcement and oversight, putting tenants’ health and safety at risk.

The bill would also postpone physical inspections for public housing for three years, unless the small PHA has been deemed troubled under the new, vague definition. Current HUD rules allow only the highest performing small PHAs to receive physical inspections every three years. Currently, those PHAs categorized as standard or substandard are inspected every two years, and those rated as troubled are inspected every year. S. 2155 would also apply a less rigorous standard for evaluating the physical conditions of a small PHA’s properties.

NLIHC sent a letter to Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) on December 7 with its concerns about the legislation. Read the letter at: