NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is taking action against tenants whose income is over the limit to qualify for public housing.
A FOX 8 investigation uncovered public housing tenants in Louisiana making nearly $144,000 a year, over $115,000 in a second case, almost $129,000 in another and the list went on from New Orleans, to the west bank, to the bayou region. Tax dollars helped pay their rent, all while thousands of low-income families are on waiting lists across the state in need of affordable housing.
Now, HUD, the federal agency that oversees public housing, is calling for public comment on the issue as it considers implementing a new rule to limit affordable housing to those who truly need it.
"I was shocked to find that we've got people making a lot of money who are choosing to live in affordable housing and nobody is doing a dad gum thing about it. And that's nothing more than stealing from taxpayers and stealing from the people who really need the housing, and shame on them. Every one of them ought to be prosecuted as far as I am concerned," said State Treasurer John Kennedy.
Kennedy called for an investigation after seeing our report. He said the new HUD rule is long overdue.
"I appreciate FOX 8 doing this story. This is another issue that probably never would have come to light. I'm sorry y'all have to do government's job for government, but I'm glad that you did," Kennedy said.
Our investigation also found over-income tenants living in Jefferson Parish, some making as much as $59,000 and $64,000 a year. Councilman Chris Roberts said that's unacceptable.
"The comments they are going to get from the public they're not going to like. The public is infuriated by it, it's a clear abuse. It's something that should not occur," Roberts said.
Right now to qualify, public housing authorities check to make sure tenants meet their income eligibility. Then each year they check again to calculate how much taxpayer assistance they should get. But the law does not require public housing authorities to evict tenants once they become over-income. That's something Kennedy said has to change.
"We shouldn't need a government rule to do this. The local public housing authorities have dropped the ball here. They ought to be enforcing this rule as a matter of common sense," Kennedy said.
The Housing Authority of Jefferson Parish adopted a policy to address over-income tenants last month. It gives them a year to find somewhere else to live.
The Housing Authority of New Orleans told us, "HANO will follow HUD's rule making process closely and get involved and comment as appropriate throughout the process," said HANO executive director Gregg Fortner.
HUD wants your input on questions like, what period of time should be allowed for an individual or family to find alternative housing? Or should HUD require a local appeals process for individuals or families deemed over-income?
For more information on how you can submit your public comments, click here.