New Orleans At first this idea may sound really, really stupid. Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) responsible for financing the public housing and housing subsidy vouchers across the country has announced a plan in his words, “to give poor people a way out of poverty.” His plan to achieve this is to raise the rent required to live in public housing. His idea is that being forced to pay more rent will somehow force poor families to get out of poverty by making them work harder. Somehow in his logic, paying more rent, thereby making a poor family poorer, will somehow make them richer. So, if at first this idea sounds really, really stupid, once you really think about it for even a minute, it is difficult not to conclude that in fact this idea is in fact, really, really, really stupid.
A report from the DC-based research outfit, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities done for the Associated Press found that in the 100 largest US metropolitan areas, lower income tenants would have to pony up an average of about 20% more for their rent. This huge bite into lower income and working families’ income would impact four million people and raise revenue for HUD by $3.2 billion once fully implemented. The Center found that 75% of the increase would be born by working families, the elderly, and the disabled. I hope your following me closely. Working families would pay more which would be an obstacle to their security and exiting poverty. The elderly would pay more with most of them on fixed income facing an increase disproportionate to any inflation adjustment. You get the picture. What’s more the Carson Get-Out-of-Poverty-Through-Higher-Rent plan would also eliminate deductions from income calculations that have prevailed in situations where there were high medical bills or child care costs.
Looking at the Center’s state by state chart of families impacted there’s only one thing that one can say about this without any fear of correction: this is an equal opportunity program since everyone in all states gets screwed. Let’s just pull a couple out of the pile. In Arkansas 45,000 families will be affected that include a total of over 89,000 individuals, including children obviously who account for 39,000 of that number, almost half. 13,000 elderly will have to come up with more money and almost 16,000 of the disabled will have to do so as well. Arkansas isn’t hit as hard as many states. The average increase will by $670 about $56 per month pushing $30 million collectively. In Louisiana the average rental increase will be close to $800. In Mississippi, it will be $830 per year, and on and on it goes.
Can families just save more and work a bit harder as Carson and HUD argue? The AP reporters note that the increases are “about six times greater than the growth in average hourly earnings, putting poor workers at an increased risk of homelessness because wages haven’t kept pace with housing expenses.” So, the Carson HUD plan will increase rents in order to increase homelessness.
We now have a HUD and its secretary promoting a pro-poverty plan! America, what a country!