Ben Carson's HUD proposal would raise rent for millions in public housing

FILE - In this Sept. 19, 2017, file photo, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson speaks at Vaux Big Picture High School in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
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Millions of families living in federally subsidized public housing would have to pay more for rent under a Trump administration proposal. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is asking Congress to raise the rent paid by public housing residents to 35 percent of income from the current 30 percent. The plan would also eliminate income deductions that could lower the rent.

Rents would be evaluated every three years instead of annually. According to a statement by HUD, rent increases will not affect the elderly or disabled.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson says the changes are necessary to revamp an archaic system that discourages public housing tenants from seeking better-paying jobs.

"The system we currently use to calculate a family's rental assistance is broken and holds back the very people we're supposed to be helping," said Carson in a statement on Wednesday. He says the proposal would make current rent policies "simpler, more transparent and predictable."

"HUD-assisted households are now required to surrender a long list of personal information, and any new income they earn is 'taxed' every year in the form of a rent increase. Today, we begin a necessary conversation about how we can provide meaningful, dignified assistance to those we serve without hurting them at the same time," added Carson.

But tenants' rights advocates are highly critical, with one calling the plan "a war on low-income people."

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-Louisiana, responded to Carson's proposals in light of past reports that he used tax payer money to purchase an elaborate dining set for his HUD office. Carson previously testified before the House Appropriations Committee that it was his wife who helped pick out the set.

"It is ironic that a man who used taxpayer dollars to buy a $30,000 dining room table for the federal agency he leads wants to raise rent on poor people," argued Richmond.

Richmond added that Carson's proposal was "ill-advised" and said the CBC would actively work with lawmakers to oppose it.