The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced the agency is considering a new rule to ensure that individuals and families residing in public housing actually need housing assistance should their incomes grow well beyond the levels required for their initial admission. HUD is seeking public comment on methods to address ‘over-income’ public housing residents who continue to reside in public housing as other families wait for vacant units to become available.
About 1.1 million families currently reside in public housing across the U.S. To qualify for public housing, local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) certify applicants’ incomes are sufficiently low for admission. In addition, HUD requires PHAs to conduct annual reviews of their residents’ incomes for purposes of calculating the proper level of subsidy for each household.
However, current law and regulation do not require eviction or termination of residency in circumstances when a household’s income increases significantly and consistently over time, even if that family pays full market rent and receives no subsidy at all. Given the urgent need for affordable rental housing in many communities, HUD is considering ways to possibly limit public housing residency to those households that actually require housing assistance.
The United States Housing Act of 1937 provides that public housing units shall be rented only to families who are low income at the time of their initial occupancy. Each year, HUD revises the income limits that determine initial eligibility for public housing. In general, HUD sets the low-income limit at 80 percent; very low-income limit at 50 percent; and extremely low-income limit at 30 percent of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which the household resides. Income limits vary from area to area and may be adjusted based on local market conditions.
Last year, HUD’s OIG issued a report that identified approximately 25,000 public housing families with incomes slightly, moderately or, in rare cases, substantially above the income limits that qualified them for initial admission. In a letter to PHAs on September 3, 2015, HUD strongly recommended that local PHAs adopt reasonable policies that clearly define ‘over income,’ provide a safety net for fluctuating incomes, and offer protections for hardship cases.
In anticipation of a proposed rulemaking, HUD specifically solicits comment on the following issues:
- How should HUD define income that “significantly” exceeds the income limit for public housing residency? Should such higher amount be determined by dollar amount, by a percentage, or as a function of the current income limit, and what should the amount be?
- Should area cost of living and family finances be taken into consideration when determining whether an individual or family no longer needs public housing assistance? Are there limits to the circumstances in which said data should be requested and applied in a determination?
- What period of time in which an individual or family has had income that significantly exceeds the income limits should be determined as indicative that the individual or family no longer needs public housing assistance?
- How should local housing market conditions or housing authority wait list data be considered?
- What period of time should be allowed for an individual or family to find alternative housing?
- Are there exceptions to eviction or termination of tenancy that HUD should consider beyond those listed in HUD’s regulation?
- Should HUD allow over-income individuals or families to remain in public housing, while paying unsubsidized or fair market, rent? How would such a provision impact PHA operations and finances?
- Should HUD require a local appeals process for individuals or families deemed over- income?
- Where over-income policies have been implemented, what were the results to public housing residents and PHAs? What were the specific positive and negative impacts?
- What financial impact would over-income policies have on PHA operations, and how can any negative impacts be mitigated?
- What are the potential costs and benefits to public housing residents and PHAs that could result from the forcible eviction of public housing tenants?
- What evidence currently exists in favor of or against the adoption of this type of policy?
It is the responsibility of HUD and PHAs to ensure that public housing units are available to those who need HUD assistance. All comments directed to steps that HUD and PHAs can take to ensure availability of public housing units for individuals and families meeting the income limits are welcome. There are two methods for submitting public comments:
- By mail: Comments may be submitted by mail to the Regulations Division, Office of General Counsel, Department of Housing and Urban Development, 451 7th Street SW, Room 10276, Washington, DC 20410–0500. Due to security measures at all federal agencies, however, submission of comments by mail often results in delayed delivery. To ensure timely receipt of comments, HUD recommends that comments submitted by mail be submitted at least two weeks in advance of the public comment deadline.
- By electronic submission: Interested persons may submit comments electronically through theFederal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. HUD strongly encourages commenters to submit comments electronically. Electronic submission of comments allows the commenter maximum time to prepare and submit a comment, ensures timely receipt by HUD, and enables HUD to make comments immediately available to the public.
For more information, visit www.hud.gov.