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Head of LA’s housing authority calls HUD proposal ‘despicable’

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“The majority of the people who could end up losing housing here are children”

William Mead Homes public housing
HUD’s proposed rule change would apply to residents of public housing and those who receive federal subsidies.

Los Angeles officials and activists spoke with passion and anger Wednesday, condemning a proposed rule change from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that City Councilmember Mike Bonin likened to “state-sponsored terrorism.”

Local leaders say the proposal would strip thousands of immigrant families of needed housing assistance, forcing many to leave their homes.

“This policy makes absolutely no sense,” said Doug Guthrie, who leads the city’s housing authority. “It’s despicable ... the majority of the people who could end up losing housing here are children.”

The rule change would cut off federal housing assistance for “mixed-status” families—those in which at least one member (under the age of 62) is not eligible for assistance because of immigration status.

Right now, people ineligible for government assistance—often parents of children with U.S. citizenship—are legally allowed to live in public or subsidized housing, as long as they do not receive government assistance themselves.

HUD’s proposed rule change would change that provision, causing many families to make the difficult choice of kicking out ineligible relatives or lose out on government support. In many cases, the latter choice would mean moving out entirely.

By HUD’s analysis, this could affect more than 25,000 families nationwide. According the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, more than 11,000 people in just the city of Los Angeles would be affected by the rule change.

Officials and activists argued Wednesday that the proposal amounted to discrimination against immigrants, particularly those struggling to keep up with the cost of living in Los Angeles’s strained rental market.

“There is no such thing as a mixed family. There is no eligibility requirement for human dignity,” said Father Brendan Busse, a priest at Dolores Mission Church in Boyle Heights.

Busse said that the proposal could directly impact those living at the nearby Pico Gardens public housing community, sending shockwaves through the neighborhood.

“We are all affected by the moral corrosion of hate-filled and discriminatory policies like this proposed rule change,” he said.

Earlier this month the Los Angeles City Council approved a resolution opposing the rule change, and members of the council at Wednesday’s press conference encouraged residents to send messages to HUD opposing the proposal. The agency is accepting comments on the rule change until July 9.

“We cannot sit back and idly allow this to happen,” said Councilmember Herb Wesson, though it appears there’s little city officials could do should the federal rule change be adopted.

“I urge everyone to speak out,” he said. “Talk to your neighbors, talk to your friends, get on social media.”