Low-income housing residents in Tucson concerned over proposal from Housing Secretary Ben Carson

(Source: KOLD News 13)
(Source: KOLD News 13)
Updated: Jun. 12, 2018 at 7:09 AM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Housing Secretary Ben Carson proposed the "Make Affordable Housing Work" Act on April 25. After an analysis of the proposal, done by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released to the Associated Press, some people are concerned about the proposal.

Arguably the most concerned group of people are those living in low-income housing. Under Carson's proposal, according to the AP, rent in low-income housing communities would go up around 20 percent in the top 100 metropolitan cities in America, including Tucson.

For many people living in low-income housing, that increase in rent would be about six times more than the growth in average hourly earnings. For South Tucson low-income housing resident Maria Zabalza, increased rent wouldn't be affordable with what she makes at her part-time job where she makes minimum wage.

Right now, she pays $210 a month to rent her apartment where she lives with her two teenage grandchildren. The South Tucson Housing Authority says if the proposal ends up ultimately being passed by Congress, Zabalza's rent would go up almost $100 and the way her rent is subsidized would change.

"I mean, you know, I barely make it now. So $100, it's like what am I gonna do? It's $100. It's a lot of money," Zabalza said.

Under the "Make Affordable Housing Work" Act, rent deductions for medical costs and child-care costs would go away. Housing Secretary Ben Carson said the deductions gave some renters an unfair advantage and he's hoping to level the playing field and make things fair across the board for low-income housing residents, according to the Washington Post.

Those deductions greatly help Zabalza. As a 61-year-old caretaker for her two grandkids, she struggles as is. Zabalza says at her age, there's no way she could get another job to cover increased expenses on rent.

"We're here because we don't make a lot of money," Zabalza said. "It's going to be very hard for us."

Analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says that under Carson's proposal rent would go up by 21.2 percent specifically in Tucson. Carson's reasoning for the rent increase is to help the poor. He's said that he believes increasing the rent in low-income housing would motivate residents to get a job and better sustain themselves financially.

The South Tucson Housing Authority says that wouldn't be case, especially since around 50 percent of residents housed by the authority already have a job. Their concern is that the rent increases would make many of their residents unable to afford their rent and in turn make them homeless.

Zabalza agrees with that sentiment.

"It's low income and it's what we can afford. If it goes up … it's going to be a lot of evictions a lot of people moving out," she said.

Almost at the age where she would be considered a senior citizen, Maria says age is a factor in her financial stability. On the other hand, HUD says the elderly or disabled would be exempt from the changes in Carson's proposal. Meanwhile, according to the analysis released to the AP, an estimated 314,000 households stand to lose their elderly status or their disabled status along with their rents going up.

Zabalza is one of the 4 million people AP estimates would be affected by the proposed rent increases. Regardless of that, both Zabalza and representatives from the South Tucson Housing Authority say that even though the proposal concerns them, they aren't going to really worry unless it becomes official.

"We have a roof over our head and that's the main issue, that we have a roof over our head," Zabalza said.

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