Judge’s Ruling Paves Way for Tampa Bay’s Poor to Move to Better Neighborhoods

Washington Post, December 28, 2017

A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to implement an Obama-era rule on Jan. 1 that would give low-income families greater access to housing in more affluent neighborhoods.

The 2016 rule was designed to break up areas of concentrated poverty in two dozen metro regions, from Atlanta and Charlotte to San Diego and Honolulu. The metro areas affected by the rule specifically include Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater and North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota.

It would operate by taking into account the rental prices in specific neighborhoods — instead of averaging across an entire metropolitan area — making it easier for poor people to afford apartments in middle-class neighborhoods with better schools, lower crime rates and more job opportunities.

Under the current system, families receiving public rental assistance have been concentrated in deeply segregated, high-poverty communities.

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Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell, appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by President Barack Obama, ruled on Dec. 23 that HUD’s decision to delay implementing the rule was “arbitrary and capricious.” She said the agency failed to show sufficient reason for a pause, and that a delay would irreparably harm the plaintiffs: a Hartford, Connecticut, mother of five and a Chicago mother trying to move their families to safer suburban communities.

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The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund was among the half-dozen groups that challenged HUD’s efforts to delay the rule. “Suspending this rule was yet another attack by this administration on communities of color,” Ifill said. “By restoring the prior rule, this injunction is a key step toward expanding equal opportunity in all aspects of American life.”

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More than 200,000 families in two dozen communities will now have greater choices about where to live, said Philip Tegeler, president and executive director of the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, which was also part of the lawsuit.

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Families with incomes low enough to receive Section 8 vouchers often have little say over where to live because it is generally left up to individual landlords whether to accept the housing vouchers. And those vouchers are often too low to cover rent in more affluent neighborhoods, relegating families to clusters of apartments in poor, highly segregated neighborhoods.

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Housing agencies in 23 metro areas will now be required to adopt “small area fair market rents,” which tie voucher subsidies to specific Zip codes. It would, in essence, redistribute the value of Section 8 rental vouchers, providing higher government subsidies for apartments in more expensive communities and lower subsidies for units in poor neighborhoods.

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Studies have shown that moving low-income families into wealthier neighborhoods results in better lives for their children, who are eventually more likely to attend college, earn more money, and reside in better neighborhoods as adults.

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The 23 affected metropolitan areas are:

 

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla.
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Ga.
Bergen-Passaic, N.J.
Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, N.C.-S.C.
Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Ill.
Colorado Springs
Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas.
Gary, Ind.
Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Conn.
Jackson, Miss.
Jacksonville, Fla.
Monmouth-Ocean, N.J.
North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, Fla.
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla.
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pa.-N.J.-Del.-Md.
Pittsburgh
Sacramento – Arden-Arcade – Roseville, Calif.
San Antonio-New Braunfels, Tex.
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, Calif.
Honolulu
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.
West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Delray Beach, Fla

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