Raising Rent for Low-Income Families Will Not Solve our Housing Crisis

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Dr. Ben Carson recently proposed raising rents for low-income individuals receiving federal housing support. This proposal includes increasing rent by 300 percent for the lowest-income families. At Dominium, we have spent 45 years building and managing affordable housing and this is exactly the wrong time to make it harder for Americans to access quality, affordable living options.

The U.S. is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. Demographic shifts including the retirement of baby boomers, the influx of young immigrants, and the limited availability of workforce housing, there simply is not enough affordable housing to meet our country’s needs. The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that there is a 7.4 million shortfall in units available to extremely low-income families; middle class families are also being squeezed as wages stagnate but rents keep rising.

Shortages of affordable housing put a chokehold on economic growth and harm communities. Mayors and others with a first-hand view of the challenges have started sounding the alarm. Earlier this year, the mayors of 14 major cities joined forces with business leaders and called for Congress to take action. The recommended treatment by Dr. Carson will only make the problem worse.

This crisis is forcing hard-working families to spend well over the recommended 30 percent of their income on rent. This leads to other social issues, too. Homelessness, hunger, social isolation, and drug abuse are expected to rise as this crisis worsens. As a growing number of families and individuals become extremely cost-burdened by rent, we are very disappointed that Dr. Carson would propose this rent increase on the lowest income Americans.

There are solutions to this national challenge and raising rents on the lowest income families is not one of them; HUD, Congress, state and local governments should be investing to create a greater supply of affordable housing. We have seen the benefits to economies across the country when workers and families have a quality place to live. Raising the cost of rent for the lowest income individuals and families is the wrong approach.