If It Ain’t Brooke, Why Fix It?

A congressional conference committee will decide the fate of the nation’s public-housing tenants in early July, according to lobbyists with the Center for Community Change.The lawmakers will be working out the differences between the radical House public-housing overhaul and the Senate’s more modest proposals.

Both bills call for the elimination of the Brooke Amendment, the 27-year-old provision that caps rents for poor tenants at 30 percent of their income, but the Senate bill — which many advocates are privately supporting — calls for a cap tightening that will still protect 90 percent of current tenants.

Among the more radical House provisions that could be jettisoned are a three-year “demonstration project” that would allow the New York City Housing Authority to sell or lease buildings out to private companies and a requirement that all tenants submit a detailed “self-sufficiency plan” explaining how and when they intend to leave public housing.

According to a well-placed House staffer, chances are “about 98” that a compromise will be reached before the planned August recess. The staff member said that HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros was actively pushing for the bill to be enacted.

But sources also say that several Democratic senators — including John Kerry of Massachusetts and Minnesota liberal Paul Wellstone — may try to stall the bills indefinitely by using the upper chamber’s arcane parliamentary rules.


Reprinted with permission from City Limits Weekly.