TAMPA – More than a decade ago, James Gaines suffered a head injury that made him unable to work
His monthly disability check gives him about $ 700 to live each month. Every second Saturday he goes to church to buy food such as peanut butter and packages.
A government plan that could increase the rent for his one-bedroom apartment in the Tampa Park Apartments makes him angry and desperate
"I have rats coming into the apartment and they want me to pay more? " he said. "I can not afford rent anymore."
Rent increases are part of a proposal to reform housing programs, recently announced by Ben Carson, director of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. In addition, stricter labor requirements for housing allowances and higher minimum rents are proposed.
According to a study by the Center for Budget and Policy, the plan would result in a rent increase of 44 per cent for more than 4 million low-income households Priorities, a progressive think tank
The increase in rent would affect the largest number of families. Currently, a family in social housing pays a maximum of 30 percent of their rental income. The HUD plan would increase this to 35 percent, an average increase of $ 1
"The vast majority of our families will pay more if this happens," said Leroy Moore, Tampa Housing Authority Chief Operating Officer
The rent increase would have to be approved by Congress. But other parts of the plan could be implemented by HUD through regulatory changes.
Moore said he was most concerned about a provision to eliminate income losses for families paying medical or childcare costs.
Under the current program, these costs will be deducted before a 30 percent rent of a family is calculated. Carson's plan would eliminate those deductions and increase the rent.
"People are in public housing for one reason: they can not afford a market rent," Moore said. "These people struggle, decide between buying medicines and feeding their children."
The reforms proposed by the HUD are designed to reduce waiting lists, make it easier for landlords to calculate rent subsidies and reduce the cost of housing subsidies Programs
Social housing waiting lists and housing subsidies are closed in many communities because they are oversubscribed. Housing proponents estimate that only a quarter of those who qualify live in subsidized housing.
"Every year, it takes more money, millions more to serve the same number of households," Carson said during a conference call. "It is clear that from a budgetary perspective and from a human point of view, the current system is not sustainable."
Rules that require recalculation of rent every time a tenant receives a new job or receives a salary increase have a deterrent effect on low-income families to improve themselves, Carson said.
His plan would also allow housing authorities and landowners to impose stricter labor requirements on tenants, so as to spur on getting more tenants into the labor market. The Tampa Housing Authority, which owns more than 3,000 public housing, and about Manages 9,000 housing checks, already requires tenants to work, train for work, or make documented efforts to find a job
"Not working and happy to live from well-being is not reality" said Moore.
In Robles Park in East Tampa, arguably the city's poorest public housing complex, 115 of the 432 apartments have someone working, Mo Erz said. Tenants are routinely questioned about their expenses and efforts to find work.
"How do you get your nails or get gas?" he said. "We are entering their business and it is a very unpleasant inquisition that we put through for this work request."
St. Tony Love CEO Tony Love said the proposed new minimum rent of US $ 150 would be prohibitively expensive for many of the poorest families, but agrees that the current minimum of US $ 50 is too low. He said it should be closer to $ 100.
"It would give people an ingenuity to come out and do more for themselves."
Shant Milhouse, an unemployed haircut, lives with her family in the Tampa Park Apartments, a low-income community near Ybor City
She said that many people want to work there, but not because the extra income is swallowed up by rent increases.
"It's unfair," she said.
Nearby, Suzana Ruiz lives in a 3-room apartment. She works as a licensed Practical Nurse and receives no subsidy of $ 545 a month. She receives help from a government program to pay for treatment costs for her daughter's hearing loss.
"Someone has to work," she said. "I know that I need my work to help with the treatment."
Contact Christopher O'Donnell at [email protected] or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.