NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - The more than 400,000 New York City residents who live in public housing could soon see a federally mandated rent increase that many say they can't afford.
Under a proposal by the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, public housing residents would be required to pay 35 percent of their gross income in rent, up from the current requirement of 30 percent of adjusted income.
"We're paying a lot of rent, we've been paying a lot of rent," said Axia Torres, the president of the Alfred E. Smith Houses Tenant Association on the Lower East Side. She predicted that a rate hike like the one proposed by HUD would be disastrous for many of her fellow tenants.
"They'll be homeless," Torres said. "People will start getting evicted like crazy."
Victor Bach, the senior housing policy analyst for the non-profit Community Service Society, estimated that the proposal could result in rent hikes of 20 to 25 percent for tenants.
"This is just a completely unfair increase in rent burdens on those who can least afford it," he said. "We're talking about low-income New Yorkers, who once they pay rents don't have much left over for food, education, health."
The proposal, called the Making Affordable Housing Work Act, would initially exempt elderly or disabled residents. In addition to cutting federal subsidies, the overhaul would also allow local housing authorities to require residents to work.
Carson said the plan would put HUD on a more fiscally sustainable path.
"It's clear from a budget perspective and a human point of view the current system is not sustainable," he told reporters on a conference call.
The New York City Housing Authority, which is already struggling to pay for much-needed repairs, called the proposal "devastating."
"The suggestion that people in NYCHA aren't paying enough, especially at this time, is ridiculous," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
The proposal needs approval from Congress. Lawmakers may not consider the legislation until after the midterm elections.