Section 8. The name sounds ominous. Is it a secret location near Area 51 where UFOs go to vacation? Or is it next to South Africa’s District 9, harboring aliens desperate for a new home? The answer: neither of the above.
Section 8 is far more benign and greatly beneficial. It provides financial assistance to millions of low-income individuals, allowing them to find an affordable place to live and still have a bit of money left to buy food and other minimal essentials.
Not surprisingly, therefore, this popular and successful program is caught in the cross-hairs of the Trump administration’s shotgun. On April 25, Ben Carson, our Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and office furniture bargain hunter, put forward the Making Affordable Housing Work Act. Under his plan, low-income families could wind up paying rent at a rate 300% higher than they now do (an astronomical boost from $50 to $150). The Act would also require recipients to work at least 15 hours per week at the federal minimum wage.
Think $150 per month doesn’t sound like a lot for rent, and that working 15 hours a week is a reasonable request? Carson claims his proposal “encourages work and self-sufficiency” while making the program “sustainable” within the limits of a Trump budget that cuts $1.5 billion from the Section 8 voucher program. Housing advocates, on the other hand, know that the proposal amounts to a “disaster” that could mean the difference between having sufficient food and going hungry — or even having a place to live. When you are so close to the edge, even seemingly small differences are crucial.
Over 20,000 low-income people in San Francisco currently get Section 8 assistance. Many of these people are barely surviving even with this aid. Seventy percent already work — sometimes at two jobs! Others are disabled and can’t work at all. Some are on such tight budgets that they literally cannot afford the bus fare to take the literacy or adult ed classes that could help them get better jobs.
The situation is no better here in the East Bay: Contra Costa and Alameda counties manage over 12,000 people with vouchers. Over 90% of these voucher holders are in the VLI (very low income) category. Unfortunately, qualifying for a voucher does not guarantee you will ever obtain housing. Currently, people issued vouchers in Contra Costa County have to wait an average of 47 months; in Alameda County, the wait is 67 months. And if you are not already on one of these waiting lists, you’re out of luck. The lists are closed until further notice!
Eliminating or reducing Section 8 assistance, as will happen if the new legislation is enacted, would likely push far too many recipients past their breaking point. Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, noted: Making these cuts “just months after giving massive tax breaks to wealthy people and corporations is the height of cruel hypocrisy.”
As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, our local Congressional representatives and both California senators oppose the legislation. On April 26, Senators Feinstein and Harris issued a statement and sent Carson a letter expressing serious concerns and “highlight[ing] how these increases would jeopardize Californians’ ability to pursue the American dream, and how their communities are already some of the most cost-burdened in the nation.”
Please call your Members of Congress to stand by their current opposition to this poorly conceived and punitive legislation. What to say to your Senators:
My name is ________. I’m a constituent from [zip code], and a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling about HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s proposal to add work requirements and raise the rent for people who receive federal housing subsidies. I’m outraged at the continued attacks on the poor from the Trump administration, and I thank you for your public statement and the letter you sent to Carson opposing the proposal. Please continue to fight it and vote against it.
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
- Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
And your Representative:
My name is ________. I’m a constituent from [zip code], and a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling about HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s proposal to add work requirements and raise the rent for people who receive federal housing subsidies. I’m outraged at the continued attacks on the poor from the Trump administration, and urge you to fight them and to vote against any proposal of this nature.
- Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
- Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
- Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065