The mayor and Housing Authority officials also said they would not immediately try to relax the federal rule that bars charging tenants more than 30% of their monthly household income for rent.
The announcements came in response to protests over news that the city may apply to participate in a new federal program that would change the rents that may be charged for public housing.
“Once the rules are lifted, that’s it,” said Jenny Laurie, executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Housing.
Called Moving to Work, the program would authorize selected public housing agencies to charge some tenants more than 30% of their household income for rent, while charging less than that from others.
Officials in municipalities around the nation are vying for inclusion in the program, which will be instituted at 30 of the most successful public housing agencies.
The aim of the program is to give public housing agencies flexibility to both increase rental income in the face of cuts in federal housing subsidies while at the same time aiding tenants whose welfare subsidies are cut.
“Last year we got approximately $62 million less than we needed to run our developments, and we foresee that continuing to happen,” said Housing Authority Chairman Ruben Franco. “We have to do creative things in order to stay solvent.”
The city must apply for inclusion by May 19. But the application is not a done deal, Franco said. Housing Authority officials will hold hearings and meet with associations that represent the city’s 600,000 public housing tenants before applying, he said.
“We are not going to use it to raise people’s rent so that public housing is unaffordable for them,” said Franco. “We are not going use it to evict people. We are going to use it to strengthen our ability to house the people that we are mandated to house.”
But housing advocates were not convinced.
“In theory it sounds wonderful, and it would be great if it turns out that they did not displace anyone,” said Laurie. “But in reality there are not enough units to go around to cover all the people who need very-low-rent apartments.”
Original Story Date: 041197