HUD: Public Housing Should Be Reserved for Poor People

By Susan Jones | February 3, 2016 | 8:32am EST
The Harold Ickes Homes project on Chicago's South Side, as seen in 2007. The buildings were later demolished. (AP File Photo)

( - The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has decided that public housing should be available only to low-income people who need it.

On Tuesday, HUD announced it is considering a new rule to remove people from public housing if their income "increases significantly" over time, even if those people pay full market rent and receive no subsidy.

"It is the responsibility of HUD and (Public Housing Authorities) to ensure that public housing units are available to those who need HUD assistance," the agency said in a news release. And right now, HUD says there is an "urgent need for affordable rental housing in many communities."

"An increase in income is a good and welcomed event for families, and when a family's income steadily rises, it may be an indication that the family is on its way to self-sufficiency," HUD said in its advance notice of proposed rulemaking.

"However, an increase in income may be minimal or temporary, and a minimal or temporary rise in income should not be the basis for termination of public housing assistance."

About 1.1 million families currently live in public housing across the United States.

Last year, HUD’s inspector general issued a report that identified approximately 25,000 public housing families with incomes either slightly, moderately or, in rare cases, substantially above the income limits that qualified them for initial admission.  

Local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) must certify that applicants’ incomes are low enough for admission.
Each year, HUD revises those low-income limits. In general, HUD sets the low-income limit at 80 percent of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which the household is located. The very low-income limit is set at 50 percent of the area's median income; and the extremely low-income limit is 30 percent of the area's median income.

HUD also requires PHAs to conduct annual reviews of their residents’ incomes to calculate the proper level of subsidy for each household.

HUD is now seeking public comment on methods to address "over-income" public housing residents who continue to reside in public housing as other families wait for vacant units to become available.  

The notice specifically asks:

-- How should HUD define income that “significantly” exceeds the income limit for public housing residency?

-- Should the area's cost of living and family finances be considered when determining whether someone no longer needs public housing assistance?  

-- How long does someone have to earn a higher income before they no longer qualify for public housing?

-- What period of time should be allowed for an individual or family to find  alternative housing?
-- Should HUD require a local appeals process for individuals or families deemed over-income?

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