Trump Threatens Devastating HUD Cuts

On April 25, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson announced proposed legislation that would sharply raise rents for the millions of low-income families who live in federally funded public housing or receive aid such as Section 8 rent subsidies.  

The proposal is part of an effort by the Trump administration and congressional Republicans to reduce access to safety-net benefits such as housing, food stamps, and Medicaid. Republicans describe this as “Welfare Reform 2.0,” a reference to Bill Clinton’s 1996 law that “ended welfare as we know it”—without ending poverty or doing much to help people get jobs.

The Carson plan would triple the monthly rent of the lowest-income households from $50 to $150, and would increase the rent for another 2.3 million families from 30 percent to 35 percent of their income. Rent for tenants in federally subsidized housing was set at 25 percent of household income in 1969. Ronald Reagan’s administration raised it to 30 percent in 1981 on the recommendation of his transition team, which included vacancy-decontrol architect Charles Urstadt and notorious Harlem slumlord Maurice Mann. (Reagan also adopted their proposal to slash the HUD budget by 90 percent, which has left local public-housing authorities devoid of needed capital and operating costs for a generation.)

Public-housing tenants, advocates, and elected officials protested against the proposed cuts at City Hall on May 4. Victor Bach, senior policy analyst at the Community Service Society, estimates that the Carson proposal would raise rents for tenants receiving benefits such as Section 8 in New York City by 20 percent on average, and “would literally unhouse many families and lead to higher rates of eviction and homelessness.” 

Congress defeated similar proposals last year, he added.