U.S. Housing Agency Considers Booting Out Public Housing Residents with Improved Income

Monday, February 08, 2016
Public housing complex in East Harlem (photo: Spencer Platt, Getty Images)

By Philip A. Janquart, Courthouse News Service


WASHINGTON (CN) - The Department of Housing and Urban Development is considering new regulations that would require public housing agencies to identify people and families who become "over income" and should be evicted from subsidized housing.


A recent report from HUD's inspector general found that more than 25,000 of the 1.1 million U.S. families in public housing - about 2.5 percent - earn too much money to qualify for housing subsidies.


"The families identified by HUD ... met the income limits at the time of admission to public housing, but their income now exceeds such income limits," HUD said in an advance notice of proposed rulemaking published in the Federal Register on Tuesday.


"Currently, the regulations do not prohibit a family from continued occupancy when their income rises above the limit for initial admission."


HUD said that rising income is a good thing because it is a sign that a family is on its way to self-sufficiency, but that sometimes that increase is minimal or temporary and should not be a basis terminating public housing assistance.


With consistent and sustained increases, however, HUD said, the assistance should go to families in greater need: "(S)carce public resources must be provided to those most in need of affordable housing."


HUD seeks comment from public housing agencies on whether it should adopt new regulations, and if so, how to structure the policies.


Regulations today do not require public housing agencies to evict over-income families, but grants them discretion to make more room for those who are income-eligible.


"HUD is considering revising [its] regulations in a manner that would continue to give PHAs [public housing agencies] discretion on when to evict or terminate the tenancies of over-income families but narrow that discretion by providing circumstances that would require a PHA to terminate tenancy or evict on over-income family," HUD said. "HUD is also considering what a reasonable period of time to find alternative housing would be."


Other questions that need to be addressed include how to define income that "significantly" exceeds the limit, whether housing market conditions should be considered, whether more exceptions should be added, and whether an appeals process would help or hinder the intent of such a new regulation.


HUD said it is not considering altering statutory exceptions, such as over-income families participating in a Family Self-Sufficiency program, or those who receive an earned income disallowance authorized under the 1937 U.S. Housing Act, the primary law governing public housing and its administration.


HUD spokesman Todd Thomas was not available for comment on Thursday.


A spokesperson with Idaho's Intermountain Fair Housing Council did not immediately return a phone call.


The public has until March 1 to submit comments.


They can be submitted electronically to http://www.regulations.gov/#!home, or mailed to Regulations Division, Office of the General Counsel, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 7th Street SW, Room 10276, Washington, DC 20410-0500.


To Learn More:

Housing and Urban Development Dept. Proposes Banning Smoking in Public Housing (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

25,000 “Overincome” Americans Live in Public Housing, Including a Nebraska Millionaire (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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