Washington, DC – Yesterday, U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson released proposed legislation that would raise rents and allow new work requirements for millions of low-income people who receive basic housing assistance from HUD. Combined, the bill’s proposals would make it harder for millions of renters – including people with disabilities – to access affordable housing in their community. The HUD bill includes a number of proposals put forward by Representative Dennis Ross (R-FL) in draft legislation and discussed yesterday by the House Committee on Financial Services.

“We’re witnessing an alarming pattern of proposals that will only make it harder for everyday Americans – including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families – to pay for the basics and survive. This new bill, proposed by Housing Secretary Ben Carson, would raise rents on families and individuals who are already struggling to pay for their housing and daily expenses. For many people with disabilities surviving on extremely low incomes, higher rents could be the difference between a life in the community, and life in an institution or on the streets. Congress should reject Secretary Carson’s proposed legislation and instead continue the recent, bipartisan Congressional support that led to new investments in 2018 in affordable housing programs, including for people with disabilities,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO, The Arc.

HUD’s proposed bill would increase rents for nearly all families across many HUD affordable housing programs, including Section 8, public housing, and the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program:

  • As highlighted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition: “Currently, most families receiving federal housing assistance pay 30% of their adjusted income as rent. Under the proposal, families, with some exceptions, would instead have to pay 35% of their gross income or 35% of the amount earned by working at least 15 hours a week for four weeks at federal minimum wage, whichever is higher. With this provision, HUD would essentially set a new mandatory minimum rent of $150—three times higher than the current minimum rent that housing providers may apply to families.”
  • Households identified as a “disabled family” or “elderly family” would also be subject to new, higher minimum rents. Their rents would be calculated as 30 percent of gross income or a minimum rent of $50 per month, whichever is higher. New “disabled family” tenants would be impacted immediately; existing “disabled family” tenants would see these higher rents phase in over 6 years. To qualify as a “disabled family” or “elderly family” for the purpose of setting the family rent, all adults in the family would have to be a person who meets the HUD definition of disability or be at least 65 years of age. Families that include non-elderly adults with and without disabilities would have to pay 35 percent of gross income or $150 per month.
  • Key income deductions currently used to calculate “adjusted income” in order to set rents would be eliminated—including deductions for medical expenses, disability-related expenses, and child care.
  • HUD would have the authority to create or authorize alternative rent policies that could lead to even higher rents for some or many tenants.

The proposed bill also would give Public Housing Authorities and project-based Section 8 housing owners the option to impose new work requirements. The details of how this would operate would be left up to HUD regulation. The bill fails to offer any new investments to ensure that people can access the supports and services they might need to find and keep a job. By reducing or cutting off basic housing assistance and making it harder for people to remain housed, work requirements will only make it harder for people to get and keep a job – including many people with disabilities and their families.

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