Congress May Consider Obama Plan for Public Housing Reform

Tuesday, 07 May 2013 11:01 AM

By Lisa Barron

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Public housing agencies could be allowed to impose occupancy time limits and work requirements on aid recipients under a measure included in President Barack Obama’s 2014 budget proposal.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the proposal would essentially reverse decades of allowing people who receive government rent vouchers or federally subsidized housing by expanding a 1996 program designed to help benefit recipients become financially independent.

Under the current program, only 39 out of 3,200 public housing authorities have incentives in place to promote work and independence. But housing agencies are pushing for the expansion, saying that the current system does not motivate recipients to become self-sufficient and is not fair to thousands of eligible people who have to wait years for assistance, according to the Journal.

"We’ve got these waiting lists that in some cases you practically get through a generation before you get a shot at a unit," Tony Perez, executive director of the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, told the newspaper, adding, "If you want to change this, you have to change the way you go about business."

Not everyone believes that Obama’s proposal is the best solution.

Linda Couch of the National Low Income Housing Coalition told the Journal, “You are just cycling these families back to the end of these waiting lists. The answer is more affordable housing; it’s not moving the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

The House Committee on Financial Services, chaired by Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling, and the Senate Committee on Banking Affairs, chaired by New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, are reportedly planning hearings soon on the proposed expansion.

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