NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Officials Call Housing Integration Plan Unworkable

November 17, 1998

A change in federal housing policy Republicans have been pushing for several years was included in a bill signed by President Clinton last month -- but with a twist that is drawing criticism from Republicans, local housing officials and some housing advocacy groups.

The new policy would allow more working poor families into public housing projects, which have become predominately occupied by very poor welfare families. The idea is that working families can be role models for their neighbors, help stabilize projects and pay higher rents to help housing authorities financially.

  • The new law says that 40 percent of newly vacant apartments must go to the poorest -- those making less than 30 percent of an area's median income, who tend to be on welfare.
  • The other 60 percent of vacancies can go those making more -- in New York, this could mean families earning up to $40,000; in Chicago, $45,000; and in South Texas, $25,000.
  • It also allows cities to offer incentives to working families, such as lower rents or paying for moving costs.

But during last-minute negotiations on the bill, Andrew M. Cuomo, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, inserted a provision that requires cities to mix working families with poorer families in each and every project. Officials say the provision is self- defeating because it would require working families to move into the worst projects and encourage them to leave better projects when welfare families move in.

Cuomo calls it a "revolutionary integration plan," because the poorest tenants tend to be black and Hispanic while more of the working poor are white. Ideally, he says, every building should reflect the racial makeup of each city's public housing system.

Source: Randy Kennedy, "Mixing Up the Projects," New York Times, November 15, 1998.


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