“Deep in the president’s new budget is a plan that could transform public housing in the nation by allowing housing authorities to increasingly set time limits or work requirements for participants.”
“Some people need a real push,” confirmed Patty Smith, an official at the Champaign County authority.
The president referred to was Obama. Jennifer Levitz, a writer at the premier bastion of liberal opinion, The Wall Street Journal, wrote that report in May of 2013.
Nancy Pelosi calls work requirements in exchange for public benefits “racist,” proudly proclaiming that “work requirements are a throwback to rejected racial stereotypes.”
“While Secretary Carson may try to portray the proposals as increasing ‘self-sufficiency,’ these proposals are more about punishing low-income people than helping them,” complains Diane Yentel of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Robert Doar, a fellow at conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute, disagrees. “It’s a recognition that work is very helpful in combination with various forms of safety assistance.”
“The people affected by this would be better off. Their incomes would rise, and communities with lots of workers in them are generally stronger communities.”
HUD accountants have sharpened their pencils and are looking to trim $6 billion in fat from the agency’s budget. In order to accomplish that, they will need Democrat cooperation.
HUD officials decided to look at some Democrat ideas and maybe give them a shot. Now that they are Republican ideas, Democrats aren’t interested anymore.
Back in the Obama years, liberals were complaining that something had to be done about the housing backlog. Many more units were needed than were available. Waiting lists lasted “generations.”
“We’ve got these waiting lists that in some cases you practically get through a generation before you get a shot at a unit,” Milwaukee’s Housing Authority executive director Tony Perez explains. “If you want to change this, you have to change the way you go about business.”
A big part of accomplishing that was through encouraging “self-sufficiency.” Federal rental assistance aims to “move people to economic independence, so you move in, you move up, you move out,” Sherry Riva said in 2013. There simply isn’t any incentive to “move on.”
In the best case scenario, officials should be telling subsidized renters, “your housing is stable. Congrats, take a deep breath. What’s next?” The founder of Massachusetts nonprofit Compass Working Capital observed.
Now that it’s President Trump’s budget that we’re talking about, liberals say “you can’t do that.”
“It’s framed as a rent reform proposal but this isn’t really about reform when you look at the specific proposals. It isn’t clear that there’s any policy rationale behind this,” senior policy analyst Will Fischer sneers.
“If you work, they raise your rent. If you don’t work, they raise your rent. If you’re elderly, they raise your rent.” He works at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The rough draft of a memo, that leaked out of Ben Carson’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), outlines a proposal that would permit “public housing authorities and private owners” to expand measures started by Obama.
A pilot program called “Moving To Work” allowed “landlords to raise rents for low-income families.” Under the program still in trial, “housing agencies can set guidelines that gradually raise rents for families who receive assistance.”
In the new proposal, able-bodied adults would be required to work at least part-time, “up to an average of 32 hours a week.”
The elderly and disabled makeup more than half of those receiving housing subsidies and would be totally exempt from the work requirement. Their exposure to rent increases is also significantly reduced.
The suggested rent increases affect different groups in different ways. Seniors and the disabled will see their contribution rise from 30 to 35 percent of their income.
Minimum rent will generally rise to at least $150 per month but again, seniors and the disabled will be capped out at $50 per month. The $150 figure represents what would be fair for a worker who gets 15 hours per week at the current federal minimum wage.
Another 26 percent are already working, so would not be affected. Going to school to improve your skills counts toward the work requirement. “Education and vocational training could count toward those hours.”
There is plenty of time to remedy the only apparent flaw in the proposal. After all, that is why the memo is called a “draft.” Everybody knows there will be changes before a final version is released.
The big concession that Republicans will need to consider making is a provision to exempt those who care for elderly or disabled loved ones. Under the current proposed wording, volunteer service would not count toward the work requirement.
Another line item destined for partisan bickering is a provision that removes the current deduction for medical and child-care costs off the top when calculating rent minimums.
The proposals will likely be formally released when the Trump administration unveils its budget in the coming weeks.