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HUD Rule Change Could Rip Apart Families in NYC Public Housing

Housing Secretary Ben Carson announces a deal with Mayor Bill de Blasio to have a new federal monitor overseeing NYCHA, on Jan. 31, 2019.
Housing Secretary Ben Carson announces a deal with Mayor Bill de Blasio to have a new federal monitor overseeing NYCHA, on Jan. 31, 2019. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

A proposed rule change by the Trump administration that would cut off housing subsidies for tenants who are undocumented immigrants would affect some 3,000 households in New York City, according to federal estimates.

The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) formally proposed the new rules on Friday. A HUD internal analysis estimates that some 108,000 tenants in 25,000 “mixed households” nationwide would be targeted.

Under current rules, so-called mixed families — where at least one member is undocumented — are allowed to stay in public housing or receive federal housing vouchers as long as other members are eligible.

The new rule proposed by Housing Secretary Benjamin Carson, and now subject to public review in the coming weeks, would force out those families — most of whom are made up of immigrant parents with U.S.-born children who are American citizens.

The policy change also likely would force out families with members who are non-citizens, but have been granted certain types of visas — such as for crime victims — or who are allowed to stay pending a citizenship application.

Some 72% of these mixed families reside in three states: California, Texas and New York. New York accounts for 12% of those households, which would mean about 13,000 tenants in 3,000 households. The tenants mostly live in NYCHA developments, but some reside in private apartments where the rent is subsidized via HUD’s Section 8 program.

Judith Goldiner, attorney-in-charge of the Legal Aid Society’s civil unit, said the proposed rule would be unfair to families with undocumented parents and children born in the U.S. who are citizens and eligible for subsidies.

“Many are U.S. citizen children by HUD’s estimate. Most will become homeless,” she said. “We will sue to protect the U.S. citizen children who will lose their homes if this rule goes into effect.”

New York Kids at Risk

In HUD’s own report on the rule change, the agency said that 55,000 kids nationwide could be displaced as their families get evicted from public housing. Twelve percent of that number would be 6,600 kids in New York City housing.

On Friday, 13 members of the New York City congressional delegation, all Democrats and organized by U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, wrote to Carson opposing the new rule. They took issue with HUD’s contention that kicking out undocumented tenants would free up apartments for U.S. citizens.

The HUD plan would in theory free up 25,000 households when an estimated 1.6 million people are now on the waiting list for either public housing or federal housing vouchers nationwide. At NYCHA alone, the waiting list is currently 177,000.

“This rule is little more than smoke and mirrors and attempts to illustrate that housing-related issues would be remedied by this rule,” the delegation wrote. “The only thing this proposed rule would do is potentially make another 22,000 to 25,000 families homeless and tear families apart.”

A HUD internal analysis of the rule’s potential effect filed in April determined that the agency  “assumes that most mixed households will leave HUD’s assisted housing as a result of this rule.” The analysis added: “HUD expects that fear of the family being separated would lead to prompt evacuation by most mixed households, whether that fear is justified.”

The HUD analysis acknowledged that the new rule could inspire forced family separation — what they termed a “ruthless” option — if an ineligible family member would simply leave to allow the eligible members to stay.

That ineligible member could face homelessness, which the HUD analysis found could wind up costing taxpayers even more via shelter subsidies. They cite estimates of $20,000 to $50,000 per person.

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