Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

House OKs Buchanan Plan To End Taxpayer Ripoffs in Public Housing

Feb 3, 2016
Press Release
Audit Shocker: Person Worth $1.6 Million Got Housing Subsidy

“Public Housing Should Be For Those Who Need It, Not Millionaires”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s measure to end taxpayer ripoffs in federally subsidized public housing was approved Tuesday by the U.S. House.

“Public housing should be for those who need it, not wealthy people with large bank accounts,” said Buchanan. “Our country is $19 trillion in debt yet we're giving subsidies to rich people?”

Buchanan's measure would tighten income and asset verification requirements. It was approved as an amendment to the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act H.R. 3700, which passed the House last night 427-0 and now goes to the Senate for consideration. 

According to an audit last year by the Inspector General of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), a Nebraska tenant was approved to live in subsidized housing for 10 years with a monthly rent of just $300, despite having an annual income of $65,007, assets valued at $1.6 million, and savings, checking and retirement accounts each holding hundreds of thousands of dollars. The audit found that the federal government gave tax-subsidized, low-income housing to thousands of families who didn’t qualify while hundreds of thousands of needy families were left on waiting lists.

Buchanan’s amendment will require HUD to establish the means for public housing agencies (PHAs) and landlords to use existing databases to verify the income and assets of individuals receiving public housing benefits. Under current law, local PHAs and landlords rely on tenants self-reporting this information, which is time consuming to collect and verify.

The Sarasota Housing Authority (SHA), which provides affordable rental housing assistance to over 2,100 families in Sarasota, applauded Buchanan’s efforts. “This will also improve the accuracy and integrity of the programs and help ensure that the right amount of benefits are going to help the intended recipients,” said William Russell, president and chief executive officer of the SHA.

The executive director of the Manatee County Housing Authority, Rob Rogers, also supported the measure, saying, “Anything to reduce the burden on families, improve our administrative efficiency of the program and minimize the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse is welcomed.”