HUD immigrant ban would raise program costs and put 55,000 children at risk of homelessness

Raised program costs and 55,000 children facing homelessness are some of HUD’s expected results of a proposed rule that would deny all housing assistance to “mixed families” with at least one undocumented household member.

HUD’s proposal, which was published last week in the Federal Register for public comment, applies to the Public Housing and Section 8 programs, including both Housing Choice Vouchers and Project-Based Rental Assistance.

As Affordable Housing Online previously reported in April, the rule change would deny housing benefits to tens of thousands of children and spouses who are citizens or lawful immigrants.

The new rule would require that every household member be a citizen or have eligible immigration status. If households include any undocumented immigrants, they face loss of rental assistance or eviction. The rule also requires that the leaseholder be a U.S. citizen or eligible immigrant. Current regulations allow prorated housing assistance to mixed households, with the amount of assistance reduced for each undocumented family member.

The rule will also require all immigrant family members to submit their immigration status information if they have not done so already. The information will be verified through the Department of Homeland Security’s SAVE system, which confirms immigrant eligibility for federal public benefit programs. Current tenants will not have to provide their immigration status information until their next annual income recertification.

HUD’s own analysis of the proposal’s impact estimates that 108,000 people in 29,000 households will be affected by the rule change. 76,000 of these people are U.S. citizens or eligible immigrants, including 55,000 citizen.

In many cases, ineligible household members will leave so that their families may keep their affordable housing. In other cases, the entire household will decide to vacate their apartment rather than break up the family. HUD’s analysis notes that many of the people vacating apartments may find themselves homeless, especially in areas with tight rental markets and high housing costs.

HUD’s analysis also points out that the rule change will increase program costs and may actually lead to fewer people receiving housing assistance. If ineligible members of mixed families leave, the remaining household will qualify for the full amount of rental assistance. If mixed families decide to vacate their apartments, the new tenants from the waitlist will receive the full rental subsidy. HUD estimates that program costs will increase by $193 million to $210 million if benefits are restricted to households with only legal residents.

Congress has not appropriated enough money to fund this extra cost. Many Public Housing Agencies will likely have to scale back the number of Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers they fund. The increased costs for Public Housing could lead to less maintenance and more vacancies.

The Trump Administration argues that the rule change will give more eligible households on the waiting lists a chance to receive housing assistance. On the contrary, it would actually reduce the number of low-income renters able to get affordable housing through HUD programs.

This rule change has been pushed by White House advisor Stephen Miller. He is the architect of the travel ban on several muslim countries and the policy that separated thousands of children from their parents at the southern border. It is yet the latest in a series of efforts to restrict immigration by promoting  fear in the immigrant community. This is a cruel measure that would strip housing benefits from U.S. citizens and eligible immigrants, mostly harming innocent children.

The comment period for the proposed rule ends on July 9, 2019. Comments may be submitted by mail or online. Instructions for submitting comments are included in the Federal Register notice.

Edited by Nathan Brunet

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