Ben Carson’s public housing rent hike plan faces tough fight: NY Dems

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RED HOOK, Brooklyn — The Trump Administration has given notice to anyone receiving public assistance to pay rent that the amount they're required to contribute is likely to increase under a proposal introduced by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.

In response to the plan, public housing residents, affordable housing advocates, and city, state and elected officials joined some members of Congress at a protest on the steps of City Hall early Friday afternoon. Their message was that they'd do all they can to ensure that the rent increase proposal does not go through, because it so strongly affects so many New Yorkers.

One of them is Lydia Carpio. She's a grandmother living in the Red Hook West Houses. She's one of some 400,000 New York City residents in public housing. A majority of them would be affected by Carson's rent hike proposal.

"It would be very hard to do that," Carpio told PIX11. "Very hard. To make ends meet alone, like I said, is difficult."

The proposal would require public housing residents, as well as people receiving Section 8 and other government-funding housing assistance to either pay a flat fee, or to pay a higher percentage of their income toward housing.

Currently, the level is 30 percent of gross income is to be paid in rent. The HUD proposal would raise that to 35 percent.

"I have kids, that's crazy. Wow," Desiree Mills said upon hearing the proposal.

Her husband, Claude Ritchmore, responded with an invitation for Dr. Carson.

"He needs to take a trip down here, to see what we go through," the public housing resident and father of two girls said. "Then maybe he'll second guess his thoughts."

It was for families like theirs that organizers said they held the City Hall rally. Specifically, it was to make a public statement that New York Democrats will block the measure in Congress.

"I'm going to introduce an amendment," Rep. Nadia Velasquez of Brooklyn and Queens, who'd organized the rally, said. Her legislation, she told PIX11, "will prohibit the implementation of the rent increase."

Meanwhile, at a Friday event, Governor Andrew Cuomo raised eyebrows about residents paying any rent for public housing.

"If I’m paying rent and I don’t have heat, if I can’t get to the unit because the elevator doesn’t work," the governor said, "why should I pay rent? I’m with the tenants.“

At least one tenant welcomed his support.

"That's great. I also agree," Carpio said.

The Trump Administration's rent increase proposal is intended, along with minimum work requirements for residents, to encourage self-reliance and less dependence on government, according to Carson.

His proposal needs congressional approval in order to become policy. It may take months before the issue is settled.

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