HUD Tightens Homeless Rules
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Department of Housing and Urban Development has tightened its housing eligibility rules after learning that Texas businessmen and church leaders were living in units designated for homeless.
James Forsberg, director of HUD’s program of homeless housing, confirmed the situation uncovered by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, but said regional administrators in other parts of the country told him they knew of no similar problems.
″It would appear right now that the issue has been limited to Texas, and probably the northern part of Texas,″ Forsberg said Tuesday.
The Star-Telegram, in a story in Sunday’s editions, reported that:
-Businessman and part-time street minister Roy Gray of Keller rents a $92,500 home in the upscale Dallas suburb of Rowlett for $1 a year.
-Baptist minister Bill Robinson has moved into a two-story home in Arlington, Texas, appraised at $92,000, under the program, although the net worth of his non-profit company will soon exceed $1 million.
″Those people were there,″ Forsberg said. ″They shouldn’t have been, but nobody can dispute the fact they were. We will move to get them out.″
Forsberg said rules were changed Monday during a series of meetings with HUD officials, including Secretary Jack Kemp.
″We tightened up to say the purpose of the program is to help people who are homeless and had no other resources that they could use to find housing elsewhere,″ Forsberg said. ″Looking at some of the people they have identified, it is clear they had resources they could have used to find housing on the market.″
Gray and Robinson defended their placement in HUD homes, saying that they, their relatives and associates qualified as homeless.
The earlier regulations had defined a homeless person as virtually anyone without a permanent home, regardless of income.
Kemp launched the program after he took office in February 1989. It makes available up to 10 percent of 50,000 foreclosed homes that the federal government owns.
Forsberg said field offices had been given additional guidance on screening the non-profit organizations applying to administer housing under the program.
He said the objective was to see that they had experience in helping the homeless and had the financial resources to manage the units without relying on rent from high-income people. He said a new effort would also be made to ″make sure the non-profits can bring appropriate social services to bear.″
Under the program, churches and non-profit groups lease foreclosed HUD homes for $1 a year and then rent them to the homeless for modest fees, usually about $250 a month. They also can buy the properties at a 10 percent discount.
HUD spokesman Jack Flynn said the new rules would include a requirement that the property be dedicated to use for the homeless for 10 years after being purchased.
The regulations will be subject to a period of public comment after being published in the Federal Register.