CHARLESTON, S.C. —Housing Secretary Ben Carson says his latest proposal to raise rents would mean a path toward self-sufficiency for millions of low-income households across the United States by pushing more people to find work. For Ebony Morris and her four small children, it could mean homelessness.

Morris lives in Charleston, South Carolina, where most households receiving federal housing assistance would see rents rise an average 26 percent, according to an analysis done by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities for The Associated Press. Her increase would be nearly double that.

Overall, the analysis shows that in the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, low-income tenants – many of whom have jobs – would have to pay roughly 20 percent more each year for rent under the plan. That’s about six times greater than the growth in average hourly earnings, putting poor workers at an increased risk of homelessness because wages haven’t kept pace with housing expenses.

“I saw public housing as an option to get on my feet, to pay 30 percent of my income and get myself out of debt and eventually become a homeowner,” said Morris, whose rent would jump from $403 to $600. “But this would put us in a homeless state.”

Roughly 4 million low-income households receiving HUD assistance would be affected by the proposal. HUD estimates that about 2 million would be affected immediately, while the other 2 million would see rent increases phased in after six years.

The proposal, which needs congressional approval, is the latest attempt by the Trump administration to scale back the social safety net, under the belief that being less generous will prompt those receiving federal assistance to enter the workforce. “It’s our attempt to give poor people a way out of poverty,” Carson said in a recent interview with Fox News.

At an event in Detroit on Thursday, Carson said the proposal is a product of budget constraints. He said that the plan could change based on funding for the agency, adding that HUD has already begun working with Congress.

“The reason that we had to even consider rent increases is because we’re working with a specific budget,” Carson said. “And in order not to have to raise rents on the elderly and the disabled or to displace people who are already in programs, that was the only option.”

“The original rent increases were to make sure we didn’t have to raise rents on elderly and disabled people,” Carson said. “Now we have some increased funding, we’re not going to” have to, he said.

The analysis shows families would be disproportionately impacted. Of the 8.3 million people affected, more than 3 million are children.

Morris, a pediatric assistant, said she sometimes works 50 hours a week just to get by. Her four young children would be hit hard if her rent increases, she said.

“Food, electricity bills, school uniforms,” she said. “Internet for homework assignments and report cards. All of their reading modules at school require the internet, without it they’ll be behind their classmates. The kids are in extracurriculars, those would be scrapped. I would struggle just to pay my bills.”

Rent for the poorest tenants in Baltimore, where Carson was a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and where his own story of overcoming poverty inspired generations of children, could go up by 19 percent or $800 a year. In Detroit, where Carson’s mother, a single parent, raised him by working two jobs, rents could increase by $710, or 21 percent. Households in Washington, D.C., one of the richest regions in the country, would see the largest increases: $980 per year on average, a 20 percent hike.”This proposal to raise rents on low-income people doesn’t magically create well-paying jobs needed to lift people out of poverty,” said Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “Instead it just makes it harder for struggling families to get ahead by potentially cutting them off from the very stability that makes it possible for them to find and keep jobs.”

While the Department of Housing and Urban Development says elderly or disabled households would be exempt, about 314,000 households could lose their elderly or disabled status and see higher rents, according to the analysis by the policy center.

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