In a move that would reduce federal assistance to poor households, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is recommending increasing rent for low-income tenants living in government-subsidized housing and imposing stricter work requirements. The move is part of a far-reaching effort by the Trump administration that some are calling “Welfare Reform 2.0,” reports the Washington Post. Carson’s proposal and other new measures are expected to tighten eligibility requirements for assistance and reduce the amount of assistance available for those who do qualify. The move, which requires congressional approval, would affect 4.7 million families relying on federal housing assistance, per the Chicago Tribune, though about half (those over 65 and those with disabilities) would be exempt from rent increases the first six years and exempt from work requirements.
Carson says the proposals, which also affect food stamps and Medicaid, would be an improvement over existing policies. "The system we currently use to calculate a family's rental assistance is broken and holds back the very people we're supposed to be helping," Carson said in a statement, reported by CBS. But the move would increase monthly rent for some of the poorest families from $50 per month to $150 per month, and tenants’ rights advocates are alarmed. "When we are in the middle of a housing crisis that's having the most negative impact on the lowest-income people, we shouldn't even be considering proposals to increase their rent burdens," Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, told the Tribune. Jack Cooper, executive director of the Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants, said the proposal is “a war on low-income people," the AP reports, and he called Carson “a bootstrap guy.”