I am writing to state my strong opposition to this proposed rule. Evicting families living in public housing solely because some members of the household are undocumented is unnecessarily cruel, would cost the federal government millions of dollars and would not make a dent in the affordable housing crisis.
More than 400,000 residents live in public housing across the five boroughs. Estimates suggest that, under this proposed rule, 2,800 families would be at risk of eviction from their homes in New York City alone. This accounts for 11,400 people, half of whom are children, who would potentially face homelessness as a result of this rule’s implementation. This rule would punish U.S. citizens and documented immigrants who would be forced to leave their homes because they live with an undocumented family member.
If this rule goes into effect, families will be required to make a choice between keeping their families intact and facing eventual eviction, or staying in their homes the only way they can – by having the undocumented resident leave and having the other family members stay. This would continue the Trump Administration’s cruel policies of family separations at any cost, dividing parents from children and spouses from each other. Any policy that seeks to implement this inhumane practice should not be enacted.
Furthermore, in passing this rule, HUD will undoubtedly exacerbate the homelessness crisis that many cities across the country are experiencing. Undocumented immigrants who are forced out of their homes – potentially with the rest of their families – may find themselves in shelters or on the streets. This creates a dangerous situation for vulnerable populations including children and imposes a high cost on municipalities such as New York City which would have to spend thousands of dollars for every new person that HUD would push out onto the street.
HUD has failed to establish how they will make up the expected budget shortfall that this rule change will cause. Currently, mixed-status families tend to pay higher rents than non-mixed families. One estimate showed that this rule would cost the federal government up to $227 million per year. This estimate does not include the at least $3 million that HUD would have to spend on eviction costs up front. This shortfall will likely result in cuts to maintenance funding, which we can hardly afford given the situation that public housing authorities such as NYCHA are currently experiencing.
One of HUD’s stated policy goals for this rule change would be to help find housing for those who are eligible. There are approximately 177,000 people on waiting lists for public housing in New York City alone. Displacing mixed use families is not a panacea for those who need access. Moreover, that stated policy goal fails to take into account the thousands of innocent children and families that would be displaced from their homes even if they are not undocumented themselves.
This proposed rule change is both poorly thought out and needlessly cruel. I strongly urge Secretary Carson to reverse course on this ill-conceived idea and to instead spend more time focusing on improving the welfare of those already living in public housing. NYCHA is currently struggling with lead paint, a myriad of longstanding neglect of repair issues, service outages and crumbling infrastructure. HUD would be far better served tackling these important challenges rather than wasting time and resources sacrificing the rights of vulnerable residents to target undocumented immigrants.