Rep. Byrne Wants to End Abuse of Public Housing by Tenants Above Poverty Line

By Zachary Leshin | December 1, 2015 | 4:39 PM EST

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL). (U.S. House of Representatives)

( – Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) has introduced legislation in Congress to crack down on the number of over-income families who live in taxpayer-subsidized public housing, including a family of four in New York City whose annual income is nearly a half million dollars a year.

Byrne’s bill, called the “Public Housing Accountability Act of 2015,” would amend the Housing Act of 1937 to require annual income reviews of families who reside in public housing in addition to the reviews made at the time of initial occupancy.

It also requires that within 30 days of receipt of a notice that the family makes too much money to qualify for public housing, they must either appeal the notice with additional documentation that was not included during the income review, or they must vacate the housing.

In July, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of Inspector General issued a report on over-income families residing in public housing, which HUD said costs taxpayers more than $100 million annually.

“Public housing authorities provided public housing assistance to as many as 25,226 families whose income exceeded HUD’s 2014 eligibility income limits. Of these 25,226 families, 17,761 had earned more than the qualifying amount for more than 1 year,” said the report.

“We estimate that HUD will pay $104.4 million over the next year for public housing units occupied by over-income families that otherwise could have been used to house low-income families,” the report added.

HUD listed several specific cases, including one in New York City where a “four-person household’s annual income was $497,911, while the low-income threshold was $67,100.”

“In addition, the head of the household owned real estate that produced $790,534 in rental income between 2009 and 2013,” HUD stated. But “as of July 2014, the family paid an income-based ceiling rent of $1,574 monthly” for a three-bedroom public housing unit.

However, the New York City Housing Authority “did not evict this family from its 3-bedroom unit because its policy does not require it to terminate the tenancy or evict families solely because they are over-income.”

Public housing complex in Harlem, New York. (AP photo)

In another case, a family of five in Los Angeles paid “a flat rent of $1,091 monthly” for a four-bedroom public housing unit despite having an annual income of $204,784 - far above the low-income threshold of $70,450.

This family was also not evicted because HUD policy does not require it.

“There is far too much fraud and abuse within our nation’s welfare programs. That’s why I have introduced the Public Housing Accountability Act, which will help prevent over-income families from residing in taxpayer funded public housing,” Byrne said in a press release.

“Public housing is a critical resource for many of our nation’s poorest families, and we are doing them a disservice by allowing such blatant abuse of the system.

“It is time Congress gets serious about reforming our nation’s welfare programs to ensure they are both efficient and effective, and my bill is a step in the right direction,” Byrne continued.


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