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Proposal to HUD vouchers could mean more money out of low-income Hoosiers’ pockets

INDIANAPOLIS - A proposal by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson could impact the nearly 90,000 Hoosiers households receiving housing choice vouchers.

Carson announced Wednesday he would like to see changes to address the rising costs of the program, which covers some a portion of household's rent, and make the program less confusing.

The proposal calls for the following changes:

  1. Households that receive federal housing assistance to pay 35 percent of their gross income in rent, up from the 30 percent requirement in place.
  2. Triple the monthly minimum some families pay, from $50 to $150.
  3. Housing agencies can more easily put working requirements in place.

According to the Indiana Institute for Working Families, approximately 89,000 Hoosier households receive federal rent assistance right now, with close to 193,000 more households eligible.

“Housing costs right now are really eating up a lot of families’ budgets," said Erin Macey, a policy analyst at the Indiana Institute for Working Families. "In Marion County, specifically, about half of renters are paying 30 percent or more of their income in rent and utilities. That’s the benchmark for affordability. So, rent is basically affordable for about half of the renters of Marion County.”

Carson's proposal doesn't put changes in place. Congress must approve any rule changes to the program. He's said the current structure is "too confusing, convoluted, and costly."

Prosperity Indiana policy director, Kathleen Lara said it would cost more to put Hoosiers and Americans who need help to keep a roof over their heads out of their homes.

“We need to have a comprehensive list of solutions to be able to get people into living wage jobs," Lara said. "We need to have wrap-around services, child care benefits, employment opportunities, education opportunities, while they try to climb that ladder. We don’t need to be cutting the feet out from under them while they’re trying to do that.”

Lara and Macey each referenced Indianapolis' high eviction rate, which they believe would only go up if all the changes were to go into effect.

EvictionLab.org researched eviction rates for major U.S. cities, saying there were more than 11,000 evictions in Indianapolis in 2016, the latest data available. It was the 14th highest rate in the country.

Macey said that shows there is not enough affordable housing in the area for the low-income families.

“We already have quite a problem in terms of stability of housing in our city," she said. "If we are now asking for more in rent of low-income renters, I worry that would lead to more evictions.”