An Increase in Rent for DC’s Poorest Residents

This post has two features.  The first is the latest edition of We Act Radio’s Live Wire program, The Empower DC Community Hour, which airs on Monday evenings from 7:00 – 8:00 PM.  This week’s show was hosted by Empower DC Afforadable Housing Organizer Linda Leaks and focused on recent proposals by Congress and the Obama Administration to raise the minimum rent that section-8 housing voucher holders are required to pay.  This weeks guests were Venus Little from the Task Force to Oppose the Minimum Rent Increase and Diane Hunter from the Perry School Community Service Center, Inc.  Please listen and support the show.

[haiku url="http://www.grassrootsmediaproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Live-Wire-EDC-Community-Hour-3-5-12.wav" title="The Empower DC Community Hour for March 5, 2012"]

Empower DC Community Education Event

This second is a cross-post from Kathy Baer’s really informative blog Poverty & Policy, from which I took the title of this post:

What Would HUD’s Proposed Minimum Rent Mandate Mean for Extremely Poor DC Residents?

Researching the impacts of the mandatory minimum rent proposal in the President’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget, I asked myself what it would mean for extremely low-income District residents who benefit from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s rental housing programs.

The answer, I think, is maybe less than for the poorest beneficiaries in most of the country. But it’s hard to be sure because we don’t know how broadly HUD would apply the new policy.

Here’s what we do know.

DCHA (the District’s public housing authority) doesn’t impose a minimum rent, as it could under the current law. It’s chosen — wisely I think — to let the lowest of low-income households conserve their cash for other needs.

These, recall, are households whose adjusted incomes are so low that the usual 30% they’d owe for rent is negligible, except to them.

In one scenario, they’d have to pay $75 a month, as would more than half a million of the poorest households nationwide, though DCHA could grant hardship exemptions for some of them.

But DCHA is one of the 34 public housing authorities that participate in HUD’s Moving to Work demonstration project. As such, it’s exempt from many of the rules most PHAs must comply with.

So it’s possible that DCHA could preserve its current rent policy for most residents who’d otherwise be affected.

According to DCHA’s latest annual report, 12,752 individuals and families had Housing Choice vouchers in its MTW program. It plans to increase the number to 12,784 by the end of this fiscal year.

DCHA says that close to 20,000 additional residents live in public housing units.

If the proposed policy change is like the one in a bill the House is considering — and it does seem that way — then the minimum mandatory rent wouldn’t automatically apply to either the voucher holders or the public housing residents.

Or so I gather from a bill analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

But the minimum mandatory would apply to residents of project-based Section 8 housing, i.e., units that have federally-funded vouchers attached to them.

That, says CBPP, would put 1,273 extremely low-income District households at risk of “serious hardship and even homelessness.”

Do we really need anything more to push up our homelessness rates?

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