Congressman drafts legislation to remove overincome families from public housing

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JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) Congressman Phil Roe (R), District 1, has drafted legislation aimed at removing people from public housing who earn high incomes.

The legislation, which he hopes to file in 2016, is a direct result of a 2013 Community Watchdog investigation. The proposal comes two-and-a-half years after we found public housing tenants making between $50,000 and $80,000 a year not just in the Tri-Cities, but in every major city in Tennessee.

This summer a federal audit, sparked by our findings, uncovered 25,000 overincome families living in public housing nationwide making up to a million dollars.

“They don’t need to be in subsidized housing that you and me and the taxpayers are paying for,” he said.

Congressman Roe says the draft legislation is already gathering plenty of interest and he thinks it will pass, likely with bi-partisan support. The draft would require overincome families to move out of public housing if they’ve made 125% over the median area income for at least a year.

“Everywhere we looked at, where they took a snapshot, the very thing you found here they found there,” he said of the federal audit. “So I think there’s no reason to believe it isn’t happening around the country.”

Today there are no longer any overincome families living in the Johnson City Housing Authority. That’s because Executive Director Richard McClain says HUD’s policies are already working. Although he hasn’t seen the congressman’s proposal he says any proposal that would evict people because they are successful is concerning.

“I know from all the policies HUD has that they choose not to evict anybody through policy,” McClain said. “They don’t want to create homelessness. They don’t want to have any policies that force people to be homeless in any manner. That type of a decision should be handled on a local level on a case-by-case basis, because there are so many different situations and some of them are unusual. To have a blanket rule that makes people leave could be very unfair.”

Congressman Roe says it’s already unfair that 500,000 low-income people who need emergency housing are stuck on lengthy public housing waiting lists.

“The housing authority is really in a bind,” he said. “If they put these high income people out and replace them with low income people they get less money to run their shop. I’m sorry, but that’s what it’s set up to do, to help low-income people.”

Congressman Roe says in the coming weeks he’s scheduled to meet with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, (D), Los Angeles, the ranking democrat on the House Financial Services Committee. He says the meeting is meant to explain how this legislation could help her city. Federal auditors found a family of five making $204,000 living in Los Angeles.Copyright WJHL 2015. All rights reserved.

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