Why HUD Wants to Restrict Assistance for Immigrants

A proposal by Ben Carson’s agency would eject immigrant families from public housing to make way for the “most vulnerable.” Housing advocates aren’t buying it.The Trump administration is targeting immigrants with a new policy—this time, by seeking to restrict housing assistance for families with mixed-citizenship status.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed a new rule that seeks to vet all members of families applying for subsidized or public housing, even those who have declared themselves ineligible in the application. According to the administration, this rule, if promulgated, would help cut down the years-long waitlist for public assistance.

But housing advocates say that it would have little to no effect on the factors that prevent millions of eligible households from finding public housing or rental assistance.

“Thanks to [President Donald Trump’s] leadership, we are putting America’s most vulnerable first,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson tweetedin response to a story from the Daily Caller on the proposed rule. “Our nation faces affordable housing challenges and hundreds of thousands of citizens are waiting for many years on waitlists to get housing assistance.”

To achieve this, Carson has proposed a policy that the department claims would eject some 32,000 families from federal housing programs, including public housing, Project Based Rental Assistance, and the Housing Choice Vouchers program (traditionally known as Section 8).

But housing experts aren’t persuaded by the federal housing administration’s math. The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that the number of households that contain family members who are not eligible for aid is smaller: between 22,000 and 25,000 households, most of them located in New York, Texas, and California. This figure might comprise 32,000 affected individuals, many or most of whom might in fact be eligible for aid.

Housing advocates also question whether this policy would make any real dent in waiting lists that, across the U.S., are millions of names long, collectively. Instead, they say, it would simply impose another penalty on immigrants.

“HUD falsely claims the change is proposed out of concern for long waiting lists, when they know well that it would do nothing to free up new units,” says Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “The true purpose may be part of this administration’s effort to instill fear in immigrants throughout the country.”

Currently, HUD allows families to live together in subsidized housing even if one member of the family is an ineligible immigrant. The agency prorates the subsidy for the household, so any family members who declare that they are not eligible are simply excluded from the benefits. Only certain types of non-citizens are permitted to receive housing assistance, per a 1980 law. And HUD vets the immigration status of eligible applicants, but the department does not track the ones who are not claiming benefits. A person can be ineligible for reasons other than immigration status.

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