Tom Harkin - U.S. Seante

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Alphonso Jackson today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) called on the Bush Administration to quickly close a loophole in Section 8 housing so low-income Americans have access to the housing assistance they need. Last month, Harkin successfully pushed a provision tightening Section 8 housing rules after learning that a loophole allows students, regardless of financial need, to live free of charge or at a greatly reduced price in government housing. Harkin called on HUD to immediately issue these new regulations, and conduct a timely review into whether current Section 8 residents truly qualify for government assistance.

“Now that Congress has acted to end abuses in Section 8 housing, it is time for HUD to step up to the plate,” said Harkin. “I hope that Secretary Jackson will act quickly to fix this problem and implement rules so that this program can help those who really need it. Thousands of low-income, elderly, and disabled Iowans depend on Section 8 housing to meet their basic needs. It is an abuse of this important program if people who do not really need help are displacing the many that truly do need it.”

The Harkin provision requires that HUD develop new regulations that take into account parental income to determine Section 8 housing eligibility for students unless they are over 24, married, veterans, or have dependents. This is the same criteria students must meet to be declared “independent” for federal financial aid purposes. Additionally, any financial aid received over tuition will be counted as income. The legislation requires that HUD issue final regulations within 30 days of enactment. This 30-day period expires on December 29, 2005.

Given that Section 8 housing is very limited and the current waiting list is two years long, Harkin called on HUD to issue regulations that include an accelerated review of current Section 8 residents to determine whether they are truly eligible for government housing, particularly in areas heavily populated with college and university students.

Since learning about this loophole, Harkin has repeatedly called on the Bush Administration to take action against abuses in the public housing system which has allowed student-athletes receiving scholarships and housing stipends to displace needy Iowans in an Iowa City public housing facility. Although HUD issued revised Section guidelines in August 2005, the limited changes did little to close the loophole. Subsequently, abuses in the system have continued even though the average waiting period is two years for Iowans who truly need Section 8 housing.

“Section 8 is meant to be a stepping stone for low-income Americans to achieve self sufficiency, and we need to get serious about assuring that this goal is realized,” said Harkin. “Unfortunately, a big loophole has continued to plague this program and it is past due that HUD gets rid of it.”

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