News & Press: Public Policy

Draft "Rent Reform" Bill Signals Hardship for Assisted Households

Thursday, February 15, 2018  
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As Washington begins work on the FY19 budget, housing advocates are bracing for cuts to core housing programs. Although a two-year funding deal set the amounts for increases in defense and non-defense discretionary funding, the details of where to allocate that money has to be determined. While most cuts in HUD programs may come from lowering budget line items, the rest may come from increased costs to residents. 

Recently we learned that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has prepared language for “rent reform” legislation that could have a devastating impact on those that depend on assisted housing. The draft bill includes several of the provisions that have circulated for years regarding work requirements, eliminating deductions and raising the minimum rent for tenants. While these changes have always been proposed in by members of Congress and successfully been beaten back, they may have a better chance under an administration proposal by HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

Households receiving HUD rental assistance are now required to pay 30 percent of the adjusted household income towards their rent. HUD’s adjusted income allows deductions for dependents, childcare, medical and disability related expenses, and deductions for seniors and persons with disabilities. Under the draft bill, all of these deductions would be eliminated, increasing the rent burden for most households served by HUD. These changes would hit families with high medical costs and children the hardest, putting vulnerable residents at risk for homelessness.

Under this draft bill, families would be required to pay the higher of 35 percent of the household’s gross income—not adjusted—or 35 percent of what they earn from working 15 hours a week for four weeks at the federal minimum wage. The document notes that the estimated amount for the latter would be $152.25. This amount would basically become HUD’s new minimum rent.

In addition, HUD’s draft language would permit state and local housing agencies to establish work requirements of up to 32 hours per week. The implementation of such a requirement would be difficult for agencies, which are struggling to operate with severely limited funding.

Housing advocates have been particularly concerned about the administration and Secretary Carson’s vision for federal housing programs. President Trump’s FY18 budget proposed a 13 percent cut to HUD, including the elimination of the National Housing Trust Fund, a key resource for new affordable housing development. Congress pushed back in FY18, protecting owners and residents, but the anticipated cost of the recent tax reform legislation has many wondering if cuts are seen as necessary and are gaining support.

AASC continues to educate members of Congress and the administration about the value of HUD’s affordable housing and service coordination programs. We urge Congress to provide the funding necessary to expand service coordination programming to better serve residents with job training, education and on-site supportive services.