Working at B’nai B’rith International during the past year has afforded me the opportunity to visit our sponsored Section 202 buildings across the country. B’nai B’rith in partnership with Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sponsors Section 202 housing for low-income seniors throughout the United States comprising 38 buildings that serve more than 4,500 people. While touring the properties, I have gotten to talk with residents and see exactly how seniors benefit from living there. Learning about affordable housing is always a humbling experience, never more so than visiting the food pantries in the buildings. Staff members in multiple buildings explained to me how residents, unfortunately, at the end of the month, often don’t have enough money for food. Consequently, these food banks provide vital nutrition for low-income seniors who now don’t have to choose between food and healthcare.
According to HUD, the average annual income for a Section 202 household is around $13,300 or $1,108 or a month. Clearly Section 202 residents are not a group of people from great wealth. Given the type of resident these buildings attract, I am saddened a proposal introduced by HUD may RAISE residents’ rental contributions.
For people reading this blog, you have read correctly! The policy recently proposed by HUD could raise the rent on low-income seniors!
First the proposal changes how HUD calculates Section 202 rental contributions from 30% of adjusted income to 30% of gross income. Simply put this change will subject more of low-income seniors very limited financial resources to rental contributions. Secondly, the bill is requesting $50 a month minimum for rental contributions. To put this in perspective, this impacts people who make less than $2,000 a year, the exact type of person who the government should be looking to shield from further financial hardship.
The Administration and some members of Congress argue that government spending is out of control with our country’s debt reaching around $20 trillion dollars. There is no argument that our country’s debt needs to be tackled. However, addressing our debt on the back of elderly Americans is not acceptable. How is a better way of governing, one that leaves seniors without a roof over their head?
The proposed legislation slashes assistance for our most needy seniors by reducing their assistance for affordable housing. If taking away basic necessities for low-income seniors is required to return our country to greatness, I think the Administration’s definition of greatness is in my humble opinion morally bankrupt!
Evan Carmen, Esq. is the Assistant Director for Aging Policy at the B’nai B’rith International Center for Senior Services. He holds a B.A. from American University in political science and a J.D. from New York Law School. Prior to joining B’nai B’rith International he worked in the Office of Presidential Correspondence for the Obama White House, practiced as an attorney at Covington and Burling, LLP, worked as an aide for New York City Council Member Tony Avella and interned for Congressman Gary Ackerman’s office. Click here to read more from Evan Carmen.
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