Barger abstains from vote on motion to oppose act tripling low income rent

File photo. Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger in a Signal Editorial Board meeting. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger abstained from voting on a letter to the Trump administration that expressed “strong opposition” toward housing cuts for the poor Tuesday.

The motion from Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn expresses disapproval of a proposal by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to reduce federal housing subsidies to low income citizens.

On April 25, Carson introduced the Making Affordable Housing Work Act, which would triple the minimum monthly rent that some families receiving federal housing subsidies must pay – from $50 to $150. The HUD estimates this would affect more than 175,000 families nationwide.

The measure, expected to affect more than 2 million households across the U.S., would also require tenants in subsidized housing to increase their share of the rent to 35 percent of their adjusted income, up from 30 percent.

Finally, the measure allows public housing authorities to impose work requirements – up to 32 hours a week. The proposed changes require approval by Congress.

The other supervisors, Sheila Kuhl and Hilda Solis, voted to support the motion. The board approved a letter with a 4-0 vote by meeting’s end.

Barger said in her statements at the meeting that she understood the system was broken and Carson’s proposal to change an income review from one year to three years made sense because of the county’s dense size.

“When I look at LA County, 10 million residents in LA County, we are bigger than many states, arguably,” she said. “We represent more people than many, almost all congressional districts throughout the U.S. We can use our knowledge regarding our barriers, as it relates to section 8 housing, to look at what Washington needs to do.”

Barger qualified she “didn’t believe that this is completely the right way to go,” but that she thought there were elements that made sense. Given how many adults were in the housing programs, she said, keeping people in the housing program wasn’t freeing up slots for other people.

“Who’s going to wait 8, 9, 10 years for housing opportunities?” she said. “While I’m not thrilled with everything that’s in the Make Affordable Housing Work Act, I believe by taking outright opposition makes us irrelevant as it relates to what needs to be done to fix it.”

Barger vowed to focus instead on addressing three year versus one year wait periods and how to get people off the waiting list for housing that currently closes for inopportune periods, she said.

Representatives for Barger’s office could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Section 8 refers to vouchers issued by the federal government to help very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing.

The HUD secretary said government spending on housing increases every year, yet only 1 in 4 eligible families receive housing benefits while the rest are on a waiting list.

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