Court Order To Place More Subsidized Housing in Middle Class Neighborhoods

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San Antonio is one of 24 cities nationwide covered by the court order requiring the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to expand the amount of money received by so called 'Section Eight Housing' recipients, now called Housing Choice Voucher recipients, to allow the recipients to live in middle class neighborhoods where current voucher amounts are too small to afford the rent, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Navarra Williams, CEO of San Antonio Metropolitan Ministries, which works to alleviate homelessness, says his organization already does this, and it has had positive results for tlow income people.

"And as they tend to grow the good habits of their neighbors, their behavior changes as well, and that has been very successful for us," Williams said.

Called the Small Area Fair Market Rents rule, it was championed by Obama era Housing and Urban Development Secretary and former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro as a way to break the pattern of low income people growing up in poor neighborhoods because their Section 8 rent voucher is not large enough to allow them to move to wealthier areas which feature better schools and more amenities.

Carson has referred to the SAFMR program as 'government enforced social engineering.'

Trump Administration HUD Secretary Ben Carson blocked implementation of the rule, but that block was overturned by a federal judge.

Castro blasted the Trump Administration's decision to delay implementation of the rule, telling The Atlantic magazine, “There’s almost a sense that if you’re poor that you somehow deserve it, and I completely disagree with that.” 

What has in the past been called 'Scattered Site' housing has always been unpopular among conservatives, who see it as a use of their tax money to give low income people, many of whom don't work, a lifestyle which they have worked hard to achieve.

But supporters say the plan will save tax money, because currently landlords can gouge Section 8 recipients with above market rents, knowing they don't have the ability to seek out housing elsewhere.  Supporters say this will also these low income individuals the ability to move into middle class neighborhoods and pay market rate rents.

The ruling comes at a time when Williams says San Antonio's rising cost of housing is forcing more families out of their homes.

"There is definitely pressure not just for folks who can become homeless, but for low income folks who cannot afford housing in San Antonio," he said.

Gentrification, especially on the west end of the traditionally low income east side, is also playing a role in taking low income oriented housing off the market.

Mayor Nirenberg has made dealing with an increased shortage of low income housing a key issue of his campaign.

The case comes out of an attempt in Dallas to calculate average rents over a larger area, which would include more neighborhoods of different economic backgrounds and allow low income individuals to have greater lifestyle choices.  

Studies have said that the ZIP code where a child grows up frequently dictates that child's success later in life.

HUD says it will immediately begin working with housing authorities in San Antonio and elsewhere to begin implementation of the rule.

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