According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2011:
- The median U.S. household income was $50,502.
- The mean (or average) U.S. household income was $69,821.
- 20.8% of U.S. households make $100,000 or more.
I think you’ll all agree that households with an annual six-figure income of $100,000 or more are well-off.
And yet, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), 25,226 families in the U.S. live in taxpayer-subsidized public housing even though they are “over income,” i.e., they earn more income than they’re allowed to for public housing eligibility, including families earning six figures.
Mitch Blacher reports for NBC10 Philadelphia, Nov. 24, 2015, that New Jersey has 755 over income families living in public housing, while Pennsylvania has 750. In the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, although the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) has a 10 year waiting list with roughly 100,000 people on it, 181 families were allowed to live in PHA properties while earning six figures.
Incredibly, PHA president Kelvin Jeremiah sees nothing wrong with families earning $100,000+ income living in taxpayer-subsidized public housing. He said, “I believe that they’re serving an important purpose. I believe that the fact that they’ve achieved some level of success while being in PHA, I want to be able to encourage that.”
Jeremiah said the 181 over income families make up a small percent of the 80,000 people living in PHA housing, and the over income families help the housing authority pay its bills: “We want those families in public housing frankly because they pay more in rent.” Jeremiah said some over income families pay as much as $1,000 a month in rent, which, of course, is still way less than what the market charges.
According to PHA’s website, rent makes up $24 million of the agency’s $371 million dollar budget. Most of PHA’s money comes from HUD, which gave PHA more than $100 million in 2015.
A HUD spokesperson told NBC10 that Jeremiah and other public housing directors across the country “have the discretion to evict families for being over income.” The spokesperson insists that HUD “encourages” public housing directors to use the taxpayer money for “those most in need of deeply affordable housing.”
Philadelphia Mayor-elect Jim Kenney, a Democrat, said, “I think if you’re making over the threshold to be eligible for public housing you should be gone. First we have to appoint a housing authority board that will deal with these issues and figure out how we remove people who are abusing the systems.” Kenney said he will take action once he is sworn in.
PHA board chair Lynette Brown-Sow, who is also a trustee of Cheney University of Pennsylvania, declined requests to speak to the NBC 10 for this story.