In African American News, Housing and Urban Development secretary Ben Carson hasn’t exactly been a champion of low-income families, even going so far as to claim that “poverty is a state of mind.” The rule was initially created by the Obama administration.
The courts, however, disagree, and have ruled that he and his Department of Housing and Urban Development will have to enforce an Obama-era policy meant to help America’s poor, The Intercept reports.
The new rule, which is entitled “Establishing a More Effective Fair Market Rent System; Using Small Area Fair Market Rents in the Housing Choice Voucher Program Instead of the Current 50th Percentile FMRs,” will provide over 200,000 low-income families with access to housing opportunities in high-income neighborhoods across 24 cities.
The rule does so by changing how housing authorities calculate rent subsidy vouchers. Previously, the worth of the vouchers was determined by the region that voucher recipients lived in. Typically, this meant that recipients were forced to live in the cheapest possible neighborhoods, which often lack job opportunities, good schools and even basic goods and services.
Now, vouchers will be valued on a sliding scale, making them worth more if a family using them is living in a high-rent, more affluent area, and worth less if a family is living in a low-rent neighborhood.
As we reported a few months ago, a government study based on a pilot program in which vouchers were valued based on a sliding scale found that changing the value of vouchers based on neighborhood didn’t cost the government much more, but had a hugely positive impact on the socioeconomic and educational opportunities of families that moved to more affluent neighborhoods.
The new rule was first created by the Obama administration; however, Carson and the Trump administration planned to postpone its execution for at least two years. Carson’s HUD claimed that the new rule couldn’t be put into effect because of a lack of available units in five particular areas.
However, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell ruled that those five areas had nothing to do with the 24 cities that the rule initially applies to. Because of this, Howell ruled that HUD cannot delay rollout of the new voucher system.
Whether or not HUD will appeal Judge Howell’s decision is up in the air at this point.
“I’m not going to make any predictions about what HUD will or won’t do, but I hope they will now carry out the laws they’re supposed to,” said Sasha Samberg-Champion, one of the attorneys speaking on behalf of the plaintiffs. “They have the right to appeal should they choose, but I hope they don’t do that. All they’d be doing is frankly stalling, and they would lose that as well.”
The plaintiffs who brought the suit against HUD alleged that the department was violating the Administrative Procedure Act in its refusal to execute the new rule.
“We expect they’ll comply with the court order,” said NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund senior counsel Ajmel Quereshi. “And we look forward to working with HUD to see positive results for thousands of families.”
Quereshi also noted that the effects of this week’s ruling should be swift, saying that HUD has an obligation to “immediately begin working” on making sure the new voucher standards are implemented as soon as possible.