HUD Says Its Proposed Limit on Public Housing Aid Could Displace 55,000 Children
A public housing development in New York. The Trump administration is pushing changes to ensure that housing benefits are awarded only to verified citizens.
- May 10, 2019
WASHINGTON — Thousands of legal residents and citizens, including 55,000 children who are in the country legally, could be displaced under a proposed rule intended to prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving federal housing assistance, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The proposal, published on Friday, would prohibit families in which at least one member is undocumented from obtaining subsidized housing, according to an analysis by HUD career officials. The administration is pushing the changes to ensure that the benefits are awarded only to verified citizens — a move that was made without the knowledge of many longtime housing officials at the department.
Current rules bar undocumented immigrants from receiving federal housing subsidies, but allow families of mixed immigration status to live in subsidized housing as long as one household member is a legal resident. The subsidies are prorated based on the number of eligible members of the family. According to the HUD analysis, more than 108,000 people receiving benefits are in a household with at least one undocumented immigrant.
Under the proposed rule, families of mixed status would no longer be permitted to live in public housing. Members who are in the country legally would be allowed to stay in their home, but the analysis found that they would be unlikely to do so: The fear of a family separation alone — and displacing one or both of a child’s parents or guardians — would have the effect of driving the entire family, including children, to vacate.
“HUD assumes that most mixed households will leave HUD’s assisted housing as a result of this rule,” the analysis said, adding that the agency “expects that fear of the family being separated would lead to prompt evacuation by most mixed households, whether that fear is justified.”
The rules are currently in a public comment stage and are not yet in effect.
In proposing the change, administration officials pointed to the long waiting lists for public housing, underlining that the rule would open the door to citizens struggling to obtain affordable housing.
“We are putting America’s most vulnerable first,” Ben Carson, the secretary of HUD, said in a statement last month. “Our nation faces affordable housing challenges, and hundreds of thousands of citizens are waiting for many years on wait lists to get housing assistance.”
But experts said that most of the residents now likely to be displaced are citizens or legally permitted to live in the United States.
“It reverses a very sensible policy that’s been in place for more than two decades under both Republican and Democratic administrations,” said Douglas Rice, a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan think tank. “It does nothing to address the affordable housing crisis that exists. In fact, the rule will take assistance away from one set of eligible U.S. citizens and immigrants and give it to another. So there’s really no net gain.”
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