U.S. Reps Call For Moratorium On Public Housing Demolitions

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U.S. Representatives Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.) want the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to “immediately cease approval of all demolition and disposition applications” currently pending from all public housing authorities across the nation.

Ida B. Wells Homes demolition in December, 2007.
Photo by Mary C. Johns

“We believe that the loss of public housing units has now reached epic proportions and further loss of units must be averted immediately for the sake of the nation’s low-income families,” they proclaimed in a joint letter to HUD Secretary Steven Preston dated Aug. 13.

The congressmen wrote out of concern “that more and more housing authorities are choosing to relinquish their public housing stock and with it their responsibility to provide affordable housing,” by using housing vouchers to replace former public housing units.

The two congressional members called for HUD to stop approving all 89 current applications, “representing 16,672 public housing units, pending from housing authorities for demolitions or dispositions.

“Due to the high number of pending applications and the clear need for legislative reform of the demolition-disposition program, we call on you to immediately cease approval of all demolition and disposition applications until legislation is enacted to reform this program,” they wrote.

Currently, housing authorities are not required to replace demolished or disposed units on a one-for-one basis.

And according to the letter, last year, with HUD’s permission, “the San Diego Housing Commission got out of the public housing business” by vouchering out its entire stock of 1,366 units. In July 2008, HUD also approved applications submitted by housing authorities in Las Vegas and Atlanta “to dispose of all their public housing units.”

“Public housing serves a vital need in communities across the country by providing much needed affordable housing – especially for families with extremely low-incomes-and supportive services,” they wrote.

“A further decline in the number of public housing units exacerbates the affordable housing needs of our most vulnerable populations, including the elderly and disabled, and forces low-income families into unstable or unsustainable housing situations or homelessness.”

HUD officials did not return RJ’s telephone calls seeking comment on the congressmen’s letter.

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