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New HUD Rule Could Redefine the Geography of Section 8 Voucher Payments

A new rule will make it easier to send vouchers for rent assistance to wealthier neighborhoods. The Trump Administration is not a willing partner in this effort.
January 29, 2018, 11am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Eli Duke

Oscar Perry Abello reports on a policy change for Section 8 rental assistance that marks a positive step for housing equity advocates. "Starting this year, local public housing authorities all over the country will be allowed to offer higher Section 8 rental assistance voucher payments to landlords in more affluent neighborhoods," according to Abello.

By changing how housing authorities calculate fair market rents, the rule change should help diffuse the concentration of Section 8 vouchers in a few low-income neighborhoods. The rule is "likely to change the makeup of neighborhoods as lower-income people gain more mobility," according to Abello, "and it’s causing a scramble among housing authorities rushing to respond to the rule."

Abello also details the history of how the new rule has proceeded under the Trump Administration, which has taken steps to dismantle tools designed to implement fair housing policies. After testing the rule in select metropolitan areas since 2012, the Department of Housing and Urban Development approved the final rule in 2016. The Trump Administration attempted to suspend the rule, but a lawsuit produced "an injunction ordering HUD to implement the rule as originally planned."

The hard work of setting up new voucher payment levels is the story now that the lawsuit has cleared the way for the rule. "The new voucher payment levels must be in place by April 1," reports Abello. "For smaller housing authorities especially, it may be an administrative burden to shift from having one voucher payment level across an entire metro to dozens, perhaps hundreds of different zip-code-based voucher levels."

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