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Ben Carson's HUD Raises Public Housing Rents, Faces Discrimination Lawsuits

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has come under fire from poverty and housing advocacy groups for new proposals and policies.

In late April, Secretary Ben Carson proposed tripling the minimum rent payment for residents of public housing projects from $50/month to $150/month, or increasing federally subsidized housing rents from 30% of a resident's adjusted income to 35% of gross income, the Washington Post reports.

The adjustment is meant to account for HUD's shrinking budget, and includes exemptions for family hardships and temporary exemptions for senior citizens already under the plan. But 712,000 families will see their rents triple immediately, according to HUD figures. The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates the change would put nearly 1 million children at immediate risk of homelessness.

The Wall Street Journal's Jason Riley said the changes are necessary to encourage families to bring themselves out of poverty, citing a HUD figure that estimates the average resident of public housing in New York City stays in the system for 20 years.

As the debate over the adjustment rages, a group of advocacy organizations led by the National Fair Housing Alliance has filed suit against Carson and HUD for suspending in January the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Act, which required 1,200 jurisdictions receiving HUD block grants across the country to submit plans for addressing racial disparities and discrimination in their housing stock. Under Carson, no jurisdictions will have to submit plans until at least 2020.

Roughly a third of the 49 submissions sent under the AFFHA in 2017 were sent back, which Carson took as proof the program was ineffective. Michael Allen, an attorney for the plaintiffs, responded by saying the high failure rate is proof that the program is necessary.

“[The suspension of the AFFHA] tells every opponent of integration, every opponent of affordable housing and good neighborhoods, whether they’re individuals or elected officials or local governments, that nobody will put pressure on them at the HUD level for the foreseeable future,” Allen said in the suit.