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HUD considering rule change after report found 25K 'low-income' families making too much money

According to a July 2015 report, more than 25,200 families living in subsidized housing have surpassed the income limit.

By Doug G. Ware
HUD considering rule change after report found 25K 'low-income' families making too much money
The Department of Housing and Urban Development on Tuesday issued a notice proposing a rule change that could ultimately evict thousands of tenants from low-income housing because they are now making too much money. A report last year found that more than 25,000 tenants in such housing exceeded the income limit. Photo by B Brown/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- The Obama administration may end up evicting thousands of residents from low-income housing across the United States because they are now making too much money.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a notice that stated the agency wants to make sure those living in low-income housing still need it.

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In its advanced notice of proposed rule-making, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing Lourdes Castro Ramírez said the new action is a response to a report by the department's Office of the Inspector General that stated some tenants of federally subsidized housing eventually surpassed the maximum financial threshold mandated by HUD.

The report said as many as 25,226 families were classified as "over-income," meaning they no longer qualify for reduced housing cost.

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"Some of those families significantly exceeded the income limits," Ramirez wrote. "HUD seeks comment from ... interested parties and members of the public on the questions presented in this notice, including how HUD can structure policies to reduce the number of individuals and families in public housing whose incomes significantly exceed the income limit and have significantly exceeded the income limit for a sustained period of time after initial admission."

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The notice will be published to the Federal Register on Wednesday, the agency said, where the public may comment on the matter for 30 days. HUD will then make a final determination.

Public comment must be made one of two ways -- online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal or via U.S. mail.

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If the rulemaking proposal proceeds, those 25,000 families could be forced to move.

Current federal housing laws do not mandate the eviction of those whose incomes surpass the limit. HUD said the considered rule change is aimed at removing tenants whose income substantially exceeds the limit, and has exceeded it for some time -- not those who are slightly over-income or those who only recently passed the threshold.

"An increase in income is a good and welcomed event for families, and when a family's income steadily rises, it may be an indication that the family is on its way to self-sufficiency," Ramirez said. "However, an increase in income may be minimal or temporary, and a minimal or temporary rise in income should not be the basis for termination of public housing assistance."

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The agency also said it wants to be careful to avoid presenting an impediment for families beginning to climb the income scale.

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"HUD takes seriously its obligation to provide clean, safe affordable housing to the neediest population," the notice continued. "Any changes that would require the termination of tenancy for over-income families should be enacted with caution so as not to impede a family's progress toward self-sufficiency."

The rule regarding potential eviction was finalized in 2004 and effectively gives housing officials the ability to evaluate the matter on a case-by-case basis.

HUD wants to hear from the public regarding 12 elements of the law -- including what qualifies as a "significant" excess of the income limit, an appropriate length of time a tenant has exceeded the limit before facing eviction, and how much time should be given to allow tenants to find other housing after eviction.

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