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Demographic Data Highlight Potential Harm of New Trump Proposal to Restrict Housing Assistance

July 1, 2019

A rule proposed by the Trump Administration would bar families from receiving most forms of rental assistance[1] from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) if at least one person in the household isn’t eligible for assistance because of their immigration status. Over 100,000 people could lose assistance due to this provision, HUD’s own estimates show.This is a significant change from current policy, which allows the eligible individuals in such “mixed-status” families to receive assistance while excluding the ineligible individual by proportionally reducing the assistance the household receives. Under the proposal, mixed-status households would have to choose between receiving rental assistance and splitting up their family. Over 100,000 people could lose assistance due to this provision, HUD’s own estimates show.[2]

The proposed rule also includes a second provision that would require citizens and older immigrants who are eligible for assistance to meet new documentation requirements proving their citizenship or immigration status. Those who cannot meet the new requirements would lose their rental assistance. Currently, U.S. citizens and elderly non-citizens applying for assistance are required to submit a signed declaration, under penalty of perjury, attesting to their citizenship or immigration status. Housing agencies and private landlords that administer rental assistance programs locally may, at their discretion, adopt a policy requiring applicants to submit verifying documents. (It is unclear how many families are currently subject to these policies.) The new proposal, by contrast, would require all housing agencies and participating private landlords to require every applicant to submit documentation, such as a birth certificate or passport, even though both survey research and experience in other programs shows such documents can be very difficult for many low-income people to provide in short order. [3]

The proposal could therefore jeopardize rental assistance for hundreds of thousands of people. It would disproportionately affect women, children, and people of color, groups that are less likely to have proof of citizenship due to their gender or race.[4] Most of the people who would face these new documentation requirements and would be at risk of losing assistance are U.S. citizens who may not have ready access to a birth certificate or passport.[5]

Because most assisted families have extremely low incomes, those losing aid would struggle to find and maintain housing in the private market, increasing their risk of homelessness. Even if they subsequently provided documents verifying their eligibility, households that lost assistance due to the documentation requirements would be unlikely to regain it due to funding shortages and long waiting lists for entry into these programs.[6] (Those who lost assistance because of the new rule barring mixed-status households would have no way to reapply for rental assistance, unless the ineligible individual subsequently left the household.)

Rental assistance programs largely serve families with extremely low incomes, mostly families with children, seniors, and people with disabilities, as the data in this report show. The tables below provide national demographic data on those subject to the rule’s new documentation requirements, those the rule would newly bar from rental assistance due to the prohibition on households that include an ineligible individual, and the number of households and individuals that would be subject to the proposal in each state.

Tens of Thousands of Eligible People in Mixed-Status Families at Risk of Losing Assistance

The proposed rule would also take rental assistance away from U.S. citizens and eligible immigrants if they live in a “mixed-status” family, meaning they share a home with an immigrant family member who’s ineligible due to their immigration status.[7] Under longstanding policy, when families include an immigrant whose status doesn’t qualify the individual for assistance, the rental assistance is carefully prorated, ensuring that ineligible family members don’t receive it. This proposal would end that sensible policy. It would force people living in these families to choose between splitting up their families and losing the assistance that helps them keep a roof over their heads.

The rule would disproportionately harm families with children and Latinx people, who make up about 85 percent of people living in mixed-status families in the three largest rental assistance programs: Housing Choice Vouchers, Public Housing, and Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (see Table 1). Among the 109,500 people in 25,000 households that would be affected by the rule:

  • 95 percent are people of color, including 85 percent who are Latinx;
  • 56 percent are female; and
  • 53 percent are children.[8]

The typical mixed-status household that would lose assistance (or be forced to separate the ineligible family member from the family) under the proposed rule is a working family of four with two school-aged children and two adults. Usually, three of the four family members are U.S. citizens eligible for rental assistance and the household is receiving three-quarters of the rental assistance it would receive if all individuals were eligible. These families typically earn only about $13,000 a year, likely working at low-wage jobs with unreliable hours.[9] Nearly three-quarters of mixed-status families live in three states — California, Texas, and New York (see map).

TABLE 1
People in "Mixed-Status"* HUD Households Who Would Have to Separate or Lose Their Rental Assistance Under Proposed Rule
  Total Citizens Eligible non-citizens Ineligible non-citizens
Total People 109,500 73,000 4,000 32,300
Female 61,400 37,300 2,200 21,800
Older adults (age 62+) 2,100 800 600 800
Adults (age 18-61) 49,100 16,200 3,000 29,900
Children (age 0-17) 58,200 56,000 400 1,600
With a disability (all ages) 5,200 4,300 500 400
Race/Ethnicity        
Asian 1,200 700 100 400
Black 8,000 5,300 500 2,200
Latinx, any race 93,500 62,400 3,000 28,100
Multiracial 200 200 Under 50 100
Native American 100 100 Under 50 Under 50
Pacific Islander 500 400 Under 50 100
Some other race 100 100 Under 50 Under 50
White 4,900 3,400 200 1,200
Missing 900 700 Under 50 200

* “Mixed-status” = a family that shares a home with an immigrant relative who is ineligible for rental assistance due to their immigration status

Note: This table covers people receiving federal rental assistance from Public Housing, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation, Rent Supp/RAP, or the Housing Choice Voucher Program. Data were not available for a handful of smaller HUD programs covered by the proposal (Section 236 housing, Section 235 Homeownership housing, Section 23 Leased Housing Assistance Program, and Housing Development Grants). All numbers have been rounded. Values less than 50 are suppressed. Citizen and non-citizen columns may not sum to the total column due to rounding or missing citizenship data.

Source: CBPP analysis of 2017 HUD administrative data

Unnecessary Documentation Requirements Would Harm Many U.S. Citizens

The proposed rule imposes new documentation requirements on U.S. citizens and eligible older immigrants who receive or seek assistance from one of the three largest HUD rental assistance programs — Housing Choice Vouchers, Public Housing, and Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance.[10] However, most people receiving federal rental assistance are less likely than others to have proof of citizenship readily available, or to have other identification that states often require in order to issue a new (or a copy of a) birth certificate.[11]

Obtaining documents such as a birth certificate can be costly and time consuming, partly because it often requires other documents that an individual may also lack, such as a government-issued photo ID, or because the individuals may need to contact another state to get a birth certificate and some states take a number of weeks to provide them.[12] Citizens with low incomes are more likely than others to lack both proof of citizenship or other forms of identification. Twelve percent of U.S. citizens with incomes below $25,000 lack proof of citizenship, and adults earning under $35,000 are twice as likely as others to lack a government-issued photo ID, research indicates. People of color and women are also less likely to have identifying documents. For example, one-quarter of Black citizens lack a government-issued photo ID, and about half of women citizens lack a birth certificate with their current legal name. Many people who have experienced homelessness also lack a photo ID due to the difficulty of maintaining important documents while homeless.[13]

Table 2 details who would be at most risk of losing assistance under the rule. Among the 9 million citizens currently receiving HUD rental assistance who would fall under the proposed rule:

  • 72 percent are people of color;
  • 62 percent are female;
  • 39 percent are children;
  • 22 percent have a disability; and
  • 17 percent are seniors.

The proposal would make it more difficult for U.S. citizens and eligible older immigrants seeking federal rental assistance and would create additional documentation burdens for those currently enrolled in the affected programs. The box below summarizes the differences between current law and the Administration’s proposed documentation requirements for families applying for any of the three largest rental assistance programs — Housing Choice Vouchers, Public Housing, or Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance.

Proposed Rule Would Make It More Difficult to Apply for Rental Assistance

Current Law

  • Citizens and elderly non-citizens must submit a signed declaration, under penalty of perjury, attesting their citizenship status
  • Elderly non-citizens required to submit documents verifying their age
  • State and local housing agencies and landlords that rent units to assisted families may request additional documents verifying citizenship

Proposed Requirements
Additions in blue

  • Citizens and elderly non-citizens must submit a signed declaration, under penalty of perjury, attesting their citizenship status
  • Elderly non-citizens required to submit documents verifying their age
  • Citizens must submit a birth certificate, passport, or other document verifying their citizenship
  • Elderly non-citizens must submit one from a list of immigration documents
 

Although people served by HUD rental assistance are more likely than average households to face significant barriers in securing the documents needed to prove their citizenship in a timely manner, it is unclear exactly how many would need to produce additional documents under this proposal. Currently, housing authorities administering public housing or the Housing Choice Voucher program and local landlords renting to families assisted through Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance may request additional documents to verify eligibility for housing assistance (for instance to verify a person’s age or familial relationship). Certain documents submitted for this purpose, such as a birth certificate, would also satisfy the proposed citizenship verification requirement. Given the differences in program administration and requirements across the thousands of housing agencies and private owners that administer rental assistance in local communities, it seems likely that tens or even hundreds of thousands of assisted people would need to provide additional paperwork to verify their citizenship or immigration status.

TABLE 2
People in HUD Households Subject to Proposed Documentation Requirements
  Total Citizens Eligible non-citizens Ineligible non-citizens
Total People 9,467,600 9,058,100 377,100 32,300
Female 5,918,600 5,657,800 239,100 21,800
Older adults (age 62+) 1,642,200 1,521,200 120,200 120,200
Adults (age 18-61) 4,212,900 3,978,000 205,000 205,000
Children (age 0-17) 3,612,500 3,558,800 52,000 52,000
With a disability (all ages) 2,041,800 1,974,700 66,700 66,700
Race/Ethnicity        
Asian 263,400 201,600 61,300 400
Black 4,455,500 4,359,200 94,200 2,200
Latinx, any race 1,860,600 1,696,600 135,900 28,100
Multiracial 106,400 104,600 1,700 Under 50
Native American 63,400 61,800 1,500 Under 50
Pacific Islander 55,800 46,600 9,100 100
Some other race 26,400 21,200 5,200 Under 50
White 2,525,300 2,460,100 64,000 1,200
Missing 110,800 106,300 4,300 200

Note: This table covers people receiving federal rental assistance from Public Housing, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation, or the Housing Choice Voucher Program. Data were not available for a handful of smaller HUD programs covered by the proposal (Rent Supplement housing, Section 236 housing, Section 235 Homeownership housing, Section 23 Leased Housing Assistance Program, and Housing Development Grants). All numbers have been rounded. Values less than 50 are suppressed. Citizen and non-citizen columns may not sum to the total column due to rounding or missing citizenship data.

Source: CBPP analysis of 2017 HUD administrative data

End Notes

[1] Nearly 90 percent of all households receiving HUD rental assistance would be subject to this proposal. The proposal covers the three largest HUD programs: Housing Choice Vouchers, Public Housing, and Section 8 Project-Based Rental assistance. It also covers several smaller programs administered by HUD: Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation, Rent Supplement housing, Section 236 housing, Section 235 Homeownership housing, Section 23 Leased Housing Assistance Program, and Housing Development Grants.

[2] Department of Housing and Urban Development, “Regulatory Impact Analysis: Amendments to Further Implement Provisions of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1980,” April 15, 2019, https://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/2019-05/Noncitizen-RIA-Final-April-15-2019.pdf.

[3] Brennan Center for Justice, “Citizens Without Proof: A Survey of Americans’ Possession of Documentary Proof of Citizenship and Photo Identification,” NYU School of Law, November 2006, https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/d/download_file_39242.pdf; Robert Greenstein, Leighton Ku, and Stacy Dean, “Survey Indicates House Bill Could Deny Voting Rights to Millions of U.S. Citizens,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, September 22, 2006, https://www.cbpp.org/research/survey-indicates-house-bill-could-deny-voting-rights-to-millions-of-us-citizens; Donna Cohen Ross, “New Medicaid Citizenship Documentation Requirement Is Taking a Toll: States Report Enrollment Is Down and Administrative Costs Are Up,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, March 13, 2007, https://www.cbpp.org/research/new-medicaid-citizenship-documentation-requirement-is-taking-a-toll-states-report; Government Accountability Office, “States Reported That Citizenship Documentation Resulted in Enrollment Declines for Eligible Citizens and Posed Administrative Burdens,” GAO-07-889, June 2007, https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-07-889.

[4] Brennan Center for Justice; Greenstein, Ku, and Dean.

[5] Cohen Ross; Government Accountability Office.

[6] Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Three Out of Four Low-Income At-Risk Renters Do Not Receive Federal Rental Assistance,” August 2017, https://www.cbpp.org/three-out-of-four-low-income-at-risk-renters-do-not-receive-federal-rental-assistance; Alicia Mazzara, “Housing Vouchers Work: Huge Demand, Insufficient Funding for Housing Vouchers Means Long Waits,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, April 19, 2017, https://www.cbpp.org/blog/housing-vouchers-work-huge-demand-insufficient-funding-for-housing-vouchers-means-long-waits.

[7] Anna Bailey, “Trump Proposal Would Force 25,000 Families to Split Up or Lose Rental Assistance,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, June 27, 2019, https://www.cbpp.org/blog/trump-proposal-would-force-25000-families-to-split-up-or-lose-rental-assistance.

[8] We present data based on the categories HUD uses when collecting demographic information from people receiving rental assistance. We recognize that in some instances, particularly when it comes to gender and race/ethnicity, the categories on standardized government forms may not reflect or adequately capture how individuals would identify themselves.

[9] CBPP analysis of 2017 HUD administrative data.

[10] Douglas Rice, “Trump Proposal Would Jeopardize Rental Aid for Many U.S. Citizens,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, June 18, 2019, https://www.cbpp.org/blog/trump-proposal-would-jeopardize-rental-aid-for-many-us-citizens.

[11] Brennan Center; Greenstein, Ku, and Dean; National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, “Photo Identification Barriers Faced by Homeless Persons: The Impact of September 11,” April 2004, https://nlchp.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/ID_Barriers.pdf.

[12] Brennan Center; Greenstein, Ku, and Dean; Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “The New Medicaid Citizenship Documentation Requirement: An Overview,” April 20, 2006, https://www.cbpp.org/research/the-new-medicaid-citizenship-documentation-requirement.

[13] Brennan Center; Greenstein, Ku, and Dean; National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.