NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Bill Would Open Public Housing To More Workers

August 19, 1998

Congress and the White House are reportedly close to agreement on legislation that would allow public housing authorities to put more working families in apartments -- rather than reserve them almost exclusively for the unemployed, very poor. The bill is also expected to give housing authorities greater flexibility in setting rents.

  • The U.S. currently has 1.2 million public housing units, and nearly 3 million households now get housing vouchers to help pay the cost of renting.
  • Since the early 1980s, the federal government has required housing authorities to give preference to the homeless, people spending more than half their income on rent, victims of domestic violence and people displaced by government actions.
  • New York public housing officials contend the rules have caused the percentage of working families in the city's projects to plummet from half of all tenant households in 1983 to one-third today.
  • One result of the policy has been the loss for youths in the projects of role-models who work -- being replaced by drug-sellers and the perennially jobless.

The public housing bill has reportedly been pressed by Republicans in Congress over the opposition of Democrats and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Andrew Cuomo. He contends the GOP bill would leave poor people without housing. But Cuomo has negotiated changes which have made it more palatable to Democrats.

One would create about 15,000 new housing vouchers. The second would make federally insured mortgages available to at least 17,000 more home buyers a year.

Source: James Dao, "Bill to Open Up Public Housing Is Near Accord," New York Times, August 19, 1998.  


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues