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Jolly threatens penalties for HUD over public housing tenants who make too much

Published Oct. 13, 2015

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. David Jolly is threatening to strip $104 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development's budget in a dispute over public housing tenants who make too much money to qualify for federal subsidies.

David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, is demanding that HUD clarify what steps, if any, local housing authorities across the country can take to oust these "over-income" tenants. And if there are no steps, he wants the law changed.

While federal officials said this summer that local authorities have discretion to evict tenants who make too much, Jolly said several housing authority directors in Florida he spoke with told him they have no power to kick out tenants who are over the income threshold.

"Three of the five housing authorities I've spoken with said they would like to evict these tenants, but they are prohibited from doing so," Jolly said in an interview Sunday. "HUD is saying they can. I don't know who is right."

Disturbed by this apparent contradiction in federal housing policy, Jolly, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, says he plans to take committee action to slash $104 million from HUD's annual budget. That's the amount that the agency's inspector general recently reported is spent every year to subsidize over-income tenants in a sample of 15 local housing authorities.

"There is $104 million of taxpayer money that is being wasted on tenants who shouldn't be in public housing," Jolly said. "If HUD doesn't fix the problem, I'm going to take $104 million out of the agency's budget." Jolly also has called for a congressional investigation into the issue.

An audit released in July by Inspector General David Montoya found that in the sample of housing authorities, more than 25,000 tenants made more than the maximum income allowed to qualify for public housing.

Jolly asked the watchdog for a list of tenants in Florida who exceed federal income limits and HUD for an explanation of its policy. The number was 297 families, with several earning more than $100,000 a year.