Housing News: MTW Housing Authorities Are Ending Deductions Of Medical Expenses
- Housing News: MTW Housing Authorities Are Ending Deductions Of Medical Expenses
[[[Low-income people applying for (Section 8) housing vouchers through Boulder Housing Partners will no longer be able to deduct their medical expenses from their income.]]]
See "Boulder Housing Partners no longer to deduct medical expenses" further below...
>>>>>>>>>>Congress pushes to deregulate public housing authorities across the nation
San Francisco Bay View Newspaper
by Lynda Carson - June 11, 2012
Oakland – With corruption running rampant on Wall Street and in the nation’s lending institutions and housing industry, millions of homeowners are facing foreclosure as a direct result. Matters are only getting worse as members of Congress and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are pushing to deregulate the nation’s more than 3,000 public housing authorities (PHAs) and are insisting that more PHAs should be able to convert to what are called Moving To Work (MTW) demonstration housing authorities.
Click below for full story...
>>>>>>>>>(MTW Housing Authority in Boulder)
Boulder Housing Partners no longer to deduct medical expenses
Change is part of a federal rent-reform program, officials say
By Erica Meltzer Camera Staff Writer
Posted: 08/13/2012 08:27:55 PM MDT
Click here for image/on-line story: http://tinyurl.com/bq72u4p
[[[Image - Allison Graves, with her cat Big Sugar, in her Boulder apartment Monday. Graves lives in one of Boulder Housing Partners' public housing buildings and said half of her income goes to medical costs. ( PAUL AIKEN )]]]
Low-income people applying for housing vouchers through Boulder Housing Partners will no longer be able to deduct their medical expenses from their income.
Officials with the housing authority say the move is part of a larger effort to make the system fairer and easier to navigate while also helping limited federal housing dollars go further.
But some Boulder residents with housing vouchers worry that the decision could price people with serious medical conditions out of even the subsidized housing market.
"Half of my income goes to medical costs," said Allison Graves, a Boulder woman with a terminal uterine cancer diagnosis. "It used to be that you could deduct that. As of next year, they won't allow any deductions. If I came in this year, I probably wouldn't be able to afford it."
Graves lives in one of Boulder Housing Partners' public housing apartment buildings. She used to earn more than $200,000 a year doing clinical trial analysis for Genentech. Now, she gets by on $21,000 a year in Social Security disability payments.
Graves pays $350 a month for medical insurance, and the drugs she takes for her cancer treatment and related health problems regularly put her in the "doughnut hole" of Medicare prescription coverage.
She expects to be able to stay in her apartment, thanks to a hardship provision, but she's worried that other people in her position won't be able to afford even subsidized rent in the future. They'll have to leave their community to find housing, she said.
The change is part of BHP's experimentation under the Moving to Work program, a federal pilot program that so far has allowed 35 housing authorities to waive many rules and requirements in an effort to use housing dollars more efficiently.
The name is somewhat misleading, as promoting employment and self-sufficiency among people who are able to work is just one goal of the broader federal program. The other two goals are finding administrative efficiencies and improving housing choices.
Boulder Housing Partners was accepted into the pilot program in 2010 and started implementing changes this year. Residents of public housing and recipients of Section 8 housing vouchers will only have to pay 26.5 percent of their income toward housing, compared with 30 percent in past years.
However, they will no longer be able to deduct medical expenses -- as well as a host of other expenses -- from their income before their rent is calculated. They will also only have to be recertified once every three years instead of once a year.
Boulder Housing Partners Executive Director Betsey Martens said the previous formula created wide disparities in how much rent was paid by people with similar incomes.
"You get a housing system that is subsidizing a lot of things that aren't related to housing," she said.
It also meant BHP clients had to disclose personal medical information to housing authority workers, and it took up a lot of staff time, Martens said.
Most of the other participating housing authorities have made similar changes, Martens said.
To ease the transition, Boulder Housing Partners created a hardship exemption. Any current voucher recipients will have their rent increase capped at 7 percent.
Out of 831 households that receive Section 8 housing vouchers through BHP, 510 previously deducted medical expenses. Of those, 61 households -- 12 percent -- qualify for protection under the hardship provision, Martens said.
An analysis of clients' medical expenses found that even those with chronic medical conditions rarely spent more than 20 percent of their income on health care for more than a few months out of the year, Martens said.
Graves said she can afford a 7 percent increase in her rent, but some people might not be able to. And she's more worried about the people who will get sick and need housing help in the future.
There is no hardship exemption for people applying for benefits next year.
Boulder Housing Partners is trying to balance a lot of competing needs, Martens said. The less rent that tenants pay, the more rent has to be made up out of Boulder Housing Partners' federal allotment.
"That means we are able to serve fewer households," Martens said. "We are trying to avoid that. We are just trying to serve as many people as possible."
Martens said the change does not affect eligibility for housing vouchers. Everyone who qualifies for help and gets a voucher will have to pay the same percentage of their income.
Ultimately, Boulder Housing Partners cannot be responsible for other expenses people might have, whether those are childcare, debts or medical expenses, she said.
"There's a reason rent is due on the first of the month," she said. "Housing comes first."
In one sense, Graves agrees. If she had to miss out on cancer treatment to afford her rent, that's what she'd do.
"I'd rather go without medical care than be homeless," she said.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or meltzere@....