The Trump administration wants to kick thousands of undocumented immigrants out of public housing.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed a rule change this week that would ensure only citizens and legal residents have access to federally subsidized housing nationwide.
The measure would force local housing authorities like NYCHA to expand their use of a homeland security program designed to help government agencies verify someone’s immigration or citizenship status to see if they are eligible for benefits.
HUD claims the changes are meant to address long wait lists for public housing. Some 200,000 families are on the wait list at NYCHA, where there’s only a vacancy rate of 1%, officials said.
“The new HUD proposal is yet another attempt to advance the Trump Administration’s xenophobic agenda,” Judith Goldiner of the Legal Aid Society said. “This latest attack on immigrant families is an effort to strip them of the fundamental human right to housing, and it has nothing to do with HUD’s false claim around shortening waiting lists.”
HUD says the proposal will close a “loophole” that allows residents to declare themselves “ineligible” and still live in supported housing without revealing their immigration status.
“Thanks to @realDonaldTrump’s leadership, we are putting America’s most vulnerable first,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson tweeted on Thursday. “Our nation faces affordable housing challenges and hundreds of thousands of citizens are waiting for many years on waitlists to get housing assistance.”
Undocumented immigrants are already barred from getting federal housing subsidies. But they’re allowed to live in public housing if at least one person in their household is a citizen, permanent resident, refugee or asylum seeker.
All public housing residents under 62 years old will be screened through the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or SAVE.
Residents won’t be allowed to opt-out of the screening and any households with undocumented immigrants could lose their housing after just 18 months, according to HUD.
About 32,000 households that get federal housing assistance are headed by people who aren’t legal U.S. residents, according to a HUD estimate. Between 22,000 and 25,000 households living in public housing or using rental vouchers have at least one family member who is undocumented, according to another estimate from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Advocates believe most of these households are New York City, Texas and California. Neither HUD nor NYCHA would provide an estimate as to how many city public housing residents would be affected by the measure.
The Legal Aid Society has a meeting with NYCHA on Monday to discuss the proposal’s potential impact, though the city plans to fight the proposal.
“We refuse to let President Trump take away housing from hardworking New Yorkers, and will fight this proposed rule,” de Blasio spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie said.
The measure was proposed late Wednesday night as much of the country braced for the hotly-anticipated release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation into into Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election.