The face of public housing could change under a measure included in President Barack Obama’s 2014 budget proposal.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the proposal would essentially reverse decades of allowing people who receive government rent vouchers or federally subsidized housing by expanding a 1996 program designed to help benefit recipients become financially independent. Currently, government housing benefits are generally open ended. Unlike welfare—which has a five-year limit—federal housing programs allow low-income Americans to receive rent vouchers or live in government complexes for decades.

Under the current program, only 39 out of 3,200 public housing authorities have incentives in place to promote work and independence. But housing agencies are pushing for the expansion, saying that the current system does not motivate recipients to become self-sufficient and is not fair to thousands of eligible people who have to wait years for assistance, according to the Journal.

“We’ve got these waiting lists that in some cases you practically get through a generation before you get a shot at a unit,” Tony Perez, executive director of the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, told the newspaper, adding, “If you want to change this, you have to change the way you go about business.”

Many states have already implemented time limits and other requirements recipients must meet in order to receive housing benefits:

In Tacoma, Wash., the housing authority in March started limiting new recipients to five-year terms. San Mateo, Calif., San Antonio and the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation plan their own versions of time limits within the next year. The restrictions are applying most commonly to rent vouchers, but also in some cases to public housing. The disabled and elderly are exempt.

“We provide these very valuable housing vouchers—deep, potentially permanent subsidies—to a group of very fortunate families and then we have thousands of people with their noses pressed up against the window desperately needing housing and getting nothing from us,” “says Michael Mirra, executive director of the Tacoma Housing Authority. As of March, the average length of stay for nondisabled, nonelderly voucher recipients at the housing authority was nearly eight years.

Other housing authorities are instituting rules requiring residents to get a job. The Housing Authority of Champaign County, Ill. in January began mandating that new residents between ages 18 and 54 must work 20 hours per week. For existing residents, the mandate is being phased in.

“Some people need a real push,’ said Patty Smith, an official at the Champaign County authority.

Not everyone believes that Obama’s proposal is the best solution.

Linda Couch of the National Low Income Housing Coalition told the Journal, “You are just cycling these families back to the end of these waiting lists. The answer is more affordable housing; it’s not moving the deck chairs on the Titanic.”


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  • EbonyLolita

    I’m giving up my apartment in September. I’ll be couch cruising & renting a room b4 i can afford to move into another apartment. I thank GOD I have no children b/c that’s rough to put a child through. What I DO have an issue with is women & men who are struggling but continue to procreate. If you can’t make it with ONE child then how you think you can make it w/ 2 or more?
    Meanwhile I have a VERY good paying job, but in NYC that doesn’t carry you but so far. I can’t take a roommate, due to my profession so I’ll be DOWNsizing from a 1 B/R to a studio. This is the LIFE chile. Sometimes you gotta take a step back to jump forward.

    • Jae

      I cannot agree more….I cannot begin, in no shape, form or fashion, to understand men and women continuing to procreate when they are already dependent on the system and struggling financially. I ponder consistently what on earth is going on between the ears….it is insane and so EXTREMELY unfair to the child and the system. Why Medicaid pays for delivery of yet another mouth to feed is beyond me. There has to be SOMETHING put in place to stop the insanity.

    • Comprehensive sex education, and access to higher education that included room & board.

  • BeanBean

    I actually like this idea. These safety nets should be available/ used by people who truly need it, people with no other option. I’m talking about elderly, and the physically/mentally disabled, or extreme circumstances. I’ve seen way too many young 18-24 men/women not doing a dang thing, not working, not attending free community college classes (yes, they have those!), yet they still receive public housing. Some people can motivate themselves, others need a push, I think this is a good way to push people. The root of poverty is typically lack of education. The percentage of poverty/incarceration among people who’ve dropped out of high school shows that.

  • SpkKay13

    Another point that I would like to make is that we as African Americans have gotten away from the practice and mindset of leaving a legacy. Failure to do the aforementioned is also a contributing factor to the cycle of poverty. Somewhere between my grandparents’ generation (those born in the late 30’s/early 40’s), the mindset transitioned from “We have to lie down a solid foundation for our children/children’s children) to “I have to worry about self or “I” had to struggle to make it so they my children will have to do the same.” Very few parents of my peers taught them the importance of money management, investing, planning for the future, budgeting, good credit or credit period, or rainy day funds. 80’s babies were typically first generation college students and have been forced to navigate through this world to learn the aforementioned for themselves. EVERY career move that I have made up until this point has always been for the benefit of my future children. In addition,we as a people are not providing our children with the same type of exposure to things beyond our environments as other cultures tend to do. Exposure births desire to do better than what is seen. I purposely take my mentoree (a young lady who hails from 4 generations of government assistance/public housing) to nice neighborhoods with manicured lawns, nice backyards, etc, museums, different states, college campuses, etc. In addition, I make it a point for her to set short/long term goals and research the requirements associated with those goals so that she can understand that you have to WORK for what you want. I also have a reward system in place for honor roll or HER ABSOLUTE BEST academically to show her that sacrifice, good decisions, and hard work pay well. I set a standard that her mother does not set. Too many parents are concerned with the latest technological gadgets, Jordan’s,etc when they do not have the same amount of money or more in savings accounts, which brings me to my last point: we need to learn the difference between being able to afford something and being able to buy something.