Public Comment

The Far-Right Policy Shift to Privatize 1.2 Million Public Housing Units

By Lynda Carson
Tuesday May 25, 2010 - 02:28:00 PM

In a stunning move that targets the poor, the Obama Administration is pushing hard to privatize our nations 1.2 million public housing units, in addition to proposing a radical change to the way 13 major federal subsidized housing programs including the Section 8 voucher program, are being funded by congress. 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the Obama Administration, has submitted legislation to congress known as the "Transforming Rental Assistance" (TRA) initiative, under a policy proposal called the Preservation, Enhancement, and Transformation of Rental Assistance Act of 2010 (PETRA). 

If enacted as proposed, HUD's proposal called TRA would allow over 3,000 public housing agencies to privatize around 1.2 million public housing units across the nation, and under TRA, HUD's additional 13 federal subsidized housing programs would all be converted into one huge new hybrid program, being subsidized through only one funding source. 

Currently, public housing, and each of the 13 federal housing programs including the Section 8 voucher program, all have their own budgets and funding streams alloted to them by congress on a yearly annual basis. The separate funding streams for each program make certain that the funding reaches those it was intended to serve. 

But under TRA, the funding streams for the 13 subsidized housing programs would all be combined into one huge slush fund, and the public would not be able to determine if future funding shortfalls would affect aids patients, the elderly, the chronically ill, disabled, or other low-income households in the housing programs. 

Additionally, under HUD's TRA proposal, public housing residents would be placed at risk of displacement and homelessness because public housing would become privatized and would no longer receive federal funding from congress for capital improvements and operating costs. Instead, under TRA, the newly privatized units would rely on higher than market rate rents, that will be subsidized by tax payers through the Section 8 program. The funds being grabbed from the poor in the Section 8 program that will be used for the public housing privatization scheme, will be used to leverage financing for building improvements, from lending institutions and banks. 

If enacted as proposed, the TRA proposal would result in draining much needed funding from the poor in the nation's Section 8 program causing Section 8 tenants to pay higher rents, and would place the nations 1.2 million units of public housing stock at risk of foreclosure, when future funding shortfalls occur in the Section 8 program, which occur quite often through the years. Currently, 10,000 Section 8 voucher holders are at risk of losing their vouchers in New York City, due to funding shortfalls in the program. 

In opposition to HUD's proposal called Transforming Rental Assistance (TRA), housing groups and low-income renters across the nation believe that HUD's proposals will cause much uncertainty in the current unstable housing market, will result in placing our public housing units at risk of bank foreclosure, and are resisting HUD's right-wing policy shift to privatize our nations public housing stock, and HUD's efforts to combine all the subsidized housing programs into one. 

Housing advocates scheduled to appear at a congressional hearing on May 25, are speaking-out in opposition to TRA, and are urging the public to contact their representatives to say, "No on TRA." 

HUD assists over 4.5 million low-income housing residents in the nations housing programs. 

Lynda Carson may be reached at