At a time when there is a dire need for federal leadership in confronting a national housing crisis, the Trump administration is heading down a path that will likely exacerbate the problem for many low-income Oregonians. Recently, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed changing the rules governing who qualifies for federal rent assistance. If implemented, the proposal will result in more families and individuals becoming homeless in Oregon and across the nation.
The proposed rule would deny most forms of rental assistance to so-called “mixed-status” families — those in which at least one family member is ineligible for assistance because of their immigration status. Currently, mixed-status families receive the housing assistance only for the U.S. citizen and eligible immigrant family members, but not for family members who are ineligible immigrants. The current rule already discriminates against some of the hardest working members of our society on the basis of their immigration status. The change proposed by HUD would go further, denying assistance to the entire family, including to those who are U.S. citizens.
This proposal threatens to increase homelessness. At a minimum, the rule would force some 800 Oregon families to choose between losing their housing support or breaking up their family in order to maintain affordable housing for some members of their households — a choice that HUD itself describes as “ruthless.” Whichever way families choose to comply with the rule, there is serious risk of whole families or individuals ending up on the streets.
Children would be particularly hard-hit by the proposed rule. HUD data shows that, nationally, over 100,000 people in mixed-income households are at risk of losing housing assistance. About half of them are children.
Homelessness and housing instability inflicts tremendous suffering and long-term harm on children. Homeless children are more likely to go hungry, to get sick, and to suffer from anxiety and depression. They are at greater risk from violence or of witnessing violence. They are more likely to miss school days and drop out of school. Robbed of a normal childhood, these children will face many obstacles as adults.
The harm caused by the proposed rule could extend much further. The proposed rule requires that those receiving or seeking rental assistance from HUD provide proof of citizenship or immigration status. For people over the age of 50, people of color, individuals with disabilities, and people with low incomes, obtaining the required documentation can be especially difficult. Some 9.5 million people across the country —including nearly 97,000 Oregonians — could lose their housing assistance if they are unable to produce the documentation required by the proposed rule.
Many Oregonians already struggle to afford safe and stable housing. The latest proposal by the Trump administration, regrettably, threatens to make matters worse.
Should HUD implement the proposed rule, Congress must reject this effort that will only exacerbate the housing crisis.