A Note on HUD and Public Housing


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Sometimes you have to look a little deeper into the numbers when you get a set of stats. This is especially the case when dealing with government statistics. They can easily be manipulated to show whatever you’d like. This is most common when talking about debt, but it can be applied to almost everything.

Take Public Housing:

More than 25,000 families received government assistance despite exceeding income thresholds, according to a sweeping audit of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) public housing program.

Of the 25,226 families, 68 percent, or 17,761, receiving public housing assistance had earned more than the qualifying amount for more than a year.

Of that number, 13,388 (53 percent) had income that was up to $10,000 greater than HUD’s 2014 income limits, and 11,838 (47 percent) had income that was more than $10,000 greater than the income limits.

The review found 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, leaving many who need help stuck on waiting lists.

For example, the New York City Housing Authority said a family in the program since 1988 had exceeded income levels since at least 2009.

As of November 2013, the four-person household’s annual income was $497,911, while the low-income threshold was $67,100.

As of July 2014, the family paid an income-based ceiling rent of $1,574 a month.

Sounds awful, right? 25,000 mistakes, that’s 25,000 too many. Some family making half-a-million dollars got housing help. How can no one be fired?

To test that out, let’s put this to scale. How much public housing is there in America?

What Is Public Housing?

Public housing is one of the nation’s three main rental assistance programs, along with “Section 8” vouchers and project-based rental assistance.  Public housing developments provide affordable homes to 2.2 million low-income Americans.

Where Is Public Housing Located?

The nation’s 1.12 million public housing units are located in all 50 states and several territories, nearly one in five of them in rural areas.   As of 2008, more than 60 percent of units (based on available data) were in areas with low or moderate poverty rates, meaning that less than 30 percent of residents were poor.  Only about a fifth were in areas where at least 40 percent of residents were poor.

Ok, so 25,000 is a lot, but out of 1.12 million, it hardly means HUD is a bunch of duds. It means that some of the several thousand housing authorities around the nation aren’t overly useful, and need reforms. Out of a program this massive though, that’s not that awful.

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