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HUD IG: Govt. Allows Well-Off Families to Stay in Public Housing

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By    |   Monday, 17 Aug 2015 10:47 PM

More than 25,000 families are living the life of Riley in public housing, making well over the income limit but paying a pittance for their apartments — all with the blessing of a government bureaucracy that wants them to stay put, a blistering watchdog report charges.

According to the audit by the Inspector General's Office for the Department of Housing and Urban Development – conducted at the request of Tennessee Republican Rep. Phil Roe, according to the Washington Post – the "over income" tenants represent an "egregious" abuse of a public housing system in which more than 300,000 qualified families are stuck on waiting lists.

About 1.1 million families live in public housing; over-income tenants represent 2.6 percent of the system, the audit notes.

"Although 25,226 over income families is a small percentage of the approximate 1.1 million families receiving public housing assistance, we did not find that HUD and public housing authorities had taken or planned to take sufficient steps to reduce at least the egregious examples of over income families in public housing," the audit said.

"Therefore, it is reasonable to expect the number of over income families participating in the program to increase over time."

Taxpayers will shell out more than $104 million over the next year to keep families that could well afford market-rate apartments in dirt-cheap public housing, the report said.

In three examples of over-the-top abuse, one family of four in New York City pulls in $497,911 a year but pays $1,574 a month to live in their three-bedroom public housing apartment; a Los Angeles family of five makes $204,784 but pays $1,091 for their four-bedroom apartment; and a tenant in Oxford, Neb., with $1.6 million in assets pays a paltry $300 for a one-bedroom unit.

The audit found 45 percent of the public housing tenants with incomes higher than the system's threshold were making $10,000 to $70,000 a year more.

About 1,200 were over the limit for nine years or more; almost 18,000 had been gaming the system for more than a year, the audit shows.

Yet HUD wants them to stay.

"Since regulations and policies did not require housing authorities to evict over income families or require them to find housing in the unassisted market, [they] continued to reside in public housing units," investigators for Inspector General David Montoya write.

The Post reports HUD revised its policy on high-earning tenants in 2004, encouraging housing authorities to move families out of public housing if they earn more than the income limit.

But the 15 authorities that investigators looked at reported they weren't gong to evict the families because if they did, poverty would continue to be concentrated in government-subsidized housing, the Post reports.

"There are positive social benefits from having families with varying income levels residing in the same property," Milan Ozdinec, HUD’s deputy assistant secretary for public housing and voucher programs, wrote in a rebuttal to the inspector general, the Post reports.

"Forcing families to leave public housing could impact their ability to maintain employment if they are not able to find suitable housing in the neighborhood.

"Further, for families with children, it may be more difficult to find affordable child care, and it may impact school-age children’s learning if they are forced to change schools during a school year."

The watchdog said at the least the agency should create "limits to avoid egregious cases."

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More than 25,000 families are living the life of Riley in public housing, making well over the income limit but paying a pittance for their apartments – all with the blessing of a government bureaucracy that wants them to stay put, a blistering watchdog report charges.
watchdog, report, public, housing
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2015-47-17
Monday, 17 Aug 2015 10:47 PM
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