LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - If approved, millions of Americans that live in federally subsidized public housing could see a significant increase in their rent. On Wednesday, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson proposed a new measure that would raise the rate of rent that public housing residents pay by 5 percent.
The change would affect able-bodied, working-age Americans who rely on HUD for rental assistance - who make up roughly half of the 4.7 million people who receive this federal housing help.
The new low-income rent reform would require households that receive federal housing assistance to pay 35 percent of their gross income in rent, up from the current requirement of 30 percent of adjusted income.
Ben Taylor, director of the Lake Charles Housing Authority, says he feels a measure such as this one will most likely have a tough time getting through Congress.
"Just for political reasons, I just don't see it happening," he said.
He also feels that if passed, it would pose a greater threat to the elderly community.
"It would affect the elderly because they are truly on a fixed income, they put their time in; it would hit people the most that have social security or a small pension."
"Every year, it takes more money, millions of dollars more, to serve the same number of households," Carson said. "It's clear from a budget perspective and a human point of view that the current system is unsustainable."
Of all households participating in the Lake Charles Housing Authority Housing Choice Voucher program, 17 percent include at least one person with a disability. Thirty percent of households with a head of household 61 years or less were headed by a person with a disability. Seventy percent of households headed by someone 62 or older were headed by a person with a disability.
Carson's proposal states that seniors over the age of 65 and individuals with disabilities would be exempt from the rental increases for the first six years. They would also be exempt from any work requirements.
According to Afford Housing, the average monthly tenant contribution to rent by Lake Charles Housing Authority voucher holders in 2016 was $331 and the average monthly HUD expenditure per voucher holder was $530. The average utility allowance across all voucher recipients is $100.
HUD establishes income limits by household size for the area in which the public housing agency is located. The income limits for Calcasieu Parish for the Housing Choice Voucher program are:
Taylor said that if the proposal does become legislation, he thinks it would significantly impact those receiving Section 8, however it would not result in mass evictions due to the fact that it's relatively a small amount of money in regards to our local economy and the price of housing.
To learn more about Secretary Carson's proposal, click HERE.