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'The Stuff of Slumlords': Ben Carson Unveils Plan to Triple Rent on Poor Americans Using Housing Assistance

"It is ironic that a man who used taxpayer dollars to buy a $30,000 dining room table for the federal agency he leads wants to raise rent on poor people."

Julia Conley

HUD Secretary Ben Carson on Wednesday introduced a proposal to impose work requirements on Americans who receive housing subsidies, aas well as raising their rent. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/cc)

Blatantly flouting his own agency's recommendation for how much money Americans should spend on monthly housing costs, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson announced Wednesday a plan to triple the rent for low-income individuals and families who receive housing subsidies and to impose work requirements on many recipients.

Under Carson's legislative proposal, the so-called Making Affordable Housing Work Act, subsidy-holders would be required to pay 35 percent of their income toward housing, up from 30 percent. The increase would triple the rent for the lowest-income households, which currently pay $50, bringing their monthly expenditure up to $150. Many recipients would also be required to work at least 15 hours per week at a minimum-wage job.

The new proposal goes against HUD's own recommendation for the amount of money families should spend on housing per month. According to the agency's website, "Families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered cost burdened and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care."

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, called the plan "immoral" and noted the irony of Carson's recent controversy over his personal spending as he was furnishing his office.

"Secretary Carson's immoral, ill-advised proposal is the latest example of the Trump Administration's war on poor people...Thankfully this proposal would require Congressional approval before it can become law, and the Congressional Black Caucus will work with our colleagues in Congress to oppose it and other related measures," said Richmond.

Carson's proposal would effect about 4.7 million households that receive housing assistance. Critics say that raising the cost of keeping a roof over families' heads will inevitably force households to make choices between their new housing costs and other necessities.

The proposal follows a trend at HUD—and throughout the Trump administration—of rolling back efforts to support low-income Americans and those who face difficulty securing stable housing. Under Carson, the agency has halted investigations into housing discrimination, removed anti-discrimination language from its mission statement, and delayed efforts to force communities to address housing obstacles faced by minorities.

Earlier this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter to HUD slamming its thwarting of anti-discrimination protections for people of color.

"This is a disturbing pattern of undermining and failing to enforce housing and lending laws," Warren wrote.


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