NYT picks up on public housing rent increase issue

I was surprised to hear from the New York Times editorial staff around noon Tuesday. They wanted to know about data sources for a blog post on Texas Housers last Friday about the Obama Administration’s proposed mandatory rent increases for HUD public and subsidized housing residents. I learned about this issue in a budget webinar hosted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, who are always on top of all matters concerning the poor and housing.

The New York Times ran an editorial today on the issue.

I don’t think the editorial’s solution of making the HUD mandated rent increase optional will solve the problem — most housing authorities will jump at the chance to collect some extra rent. Raising the rent paid by the poor, the elderly and people with disabilities is a very harsh thing, but it is downright heartless in this economy. Here is hoping this national attention will spur a reassessment by the Administration of this shortsighted initiative.

Here is the NYT editorial…

Keeping the Poorest in Housing

Affordable housing advocates are rightly alarmed by proposals in the White House budget and in Congress that would drive up rents for the nation’s poorest public housing residents, many of whom are in households that subsist on less than $3,000 a year. If the federal government raises rents in housing subsidy programs that shelter about 4.5 million households, it must do so in a way that shields the poorest from eviction and homelessness.

Under current federal law, housing authorities have the option of setting a minimum rent of $50 per month. About a quarter of public housing agencies around the country have set the minimum below that number, allowing some of the poorest families to pay $25 or less. A bill in the House would require that the minimum rent in public housing be raised to $69.45. The White House budget would raise it to $75.

These may seem like small amounts, until you consider households where single parents with two children might be subsisting on food stamps and about $250 in cash payments from the federal public assistance program. Many of these families are already teetering on the verge of homelessness. Some in Congress support raising the minimum rent as an adjustment for inflation, but the resources of poor families generally have not increased. The Obama administration believes its proposal can help raise revenues for public housing programs without harming the very poor. One way to do that is to make the rent increases optional, not mandatory, so that housing authorities are not forced to charge the most vulnerable people more than what they can afford to pay.