Glenn Thrush of the New York Times reports in a recent article how Mr. Ben Carson and the Trump administration plan to triple rents for approximately 712,000 of the poorest tenants receiving federal housing aid and to loosen the cap on rents for 4.5 million households enrolled in federal voucher and public housing programs nationwide. THE GOAL: move longtime tenants out of the system to make way for new ones. Today’s question—why should minimum wage workers, the elderly and poor be moved out of their homes?
Mr. Ben Carson—Secretary of Housing and Urban Development—answers the question. He does not want to give recipients of federal aid “a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say, ‘I’ll just stay here; they will take care of me,’” Subsequently, he reduces rather than expands assistance to the poor in order to break what he sees as a “cycle of dependency”. Additionally, he has proposed maximum rents paid by the poorest households in public housing be increased from $50 to $150 per month.
NOTE: According to the Pew Charitable Trusts rents between 2001 to 2015 have raised by 32% while wages have remained flat. NOTE: Rent increases hit the poor and elderly people, African-Americans and low-income wage earners the hardest. NOTE: The National Low Income Housing Coalition found that a worker earning the state minimum wage could afford a market-rate one-bedroom apartment in only 22 of the country’s 3,000 counties. NOTE: According to Carson’s agency—HUD—the poor spends more than half of their earnings on housing.
Thrush shares a story of a 75-year-old retired data storage worker receiving $848 a month in Social Security who pays $594.88 of it to remain in the small two-bedroom apartment she once shared with her mother.
Throughout the nation the numbers vary, depending on the local housing market. She also joins three out of four eligible applicants for housing assistance who have been turned down due to a shortage of assistance funds. Even with a city sponsored stipend she currently is spending 70 percent of her income on rent. $254.40 per month remains for food, clothing, utility costs, and her share of medical expenses. She says, “I stay home a lot. I’d rather not go out because going out means you have to spend money.”
One of her friends gets rent assistance. “Oh my God”, she says, “they pay $200 a month—I can’t even imagine having that much money to live on.” One would think that an elderly retired citizen of the United States who paid income taxes all their life, has the right to say— “I’ll just stay here; they will take care of me.” The safety net established with bi-partisan support over the years is being dismantled so the current administration and a Republican controlled Congress can pay for huge tax cuts for the rich while the poor, lower and middle classes join the rest of us to foot the bill. RESIST!
-Rev. Dr. Ira S. Williams Jr., Gravois Mills