The House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill Tuesday with an amendment by Rep. Vern Buchanan of Bradenton, Florida, that would tighten income and asset verification requirements for people living in federally subsidized public housing.
Buchanan’s provision, part of the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act, would require the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to develop guidelines for local public housing agencies and landlords to verify the income and assets of people receiving public housing benefits.
Currently, housing agencies and landlords rely on tenants to self-report the information, which opens the door to potential fraud.
The bill containing Buchanan’s measure passed by a vote of 427-0 on Tuesday evening. Buchanan, a Republican, said his provision would end taxpayer ripoffs.
“This abuse of taxpayer dollars has to end,” Buchanan said in an e-mail on Wednesday. “Not only are the taxpayers getting scammed, but the low-income people on housing waiting lists are literally being left out in the cold.”
An audit last year by the HUD inspector general’s office found that a Nebraska tenant who made $65,000 a year, with assets valued at $1.6 million was okayed to live in subsidized housing for 10 years for just $300 a month.
Anything to reduce the burden on families, improve our administrative efficiency of the program and minimize the risk of waste, fraud and abuse is welcomed.
Rob Rogers, Manatee County Housing Authority
The audit found that thousands more were receiving subsidized, low-income housing while untold thousands of needy families were on waiting lists for subsidies.
“Public housing should be for those who need it, not wealthy people with large bank accounts,” Buchanan said in a statement. “Our country is $19 trillion in debt yet we're giving subsidies to rich people?”
William Russell, president and chief executive officer of the Sarasota Housing Authority, offered support for the measure in a statement.
“This will also improve the accuracy and integrity of the programs and help ensure that the right amount of benefits are going to help the intended recipients,”said Russell, whose agency provides affordable rental housing to more than 2,100 families.
Rob Rogers, executive director of the Manatee County Housing Authority, agreed.
“Anything to reduce the burden on families, improve our administrative efficiency of the program and minimize the risk of waste, fraud and abuse is welcomed,” Rogers said in a statement.