By Sarah Lewin
BBC News, New York
Vera has four children, but her rent in the Bronx has doubled. “You had a car for so long and now you want us to walk?” she asks. “What’s with that? What is our education? We don’t have nothing.” The problems facing the traditional families of America are becoming common: lack of affordable housing, even in one of the wealthiest areas of the US. The rental assistance measures proposed by President Obama would benefit four out of every five American households. Homes were to be built where they are needed The government paid the help directly to landlords and was in effect loaning them money for a mortgage loan at market rates. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson says the proposal was unexpected by most. “We expected that it would be around $6bn but after the hurricane we added another $4bn,” he says. The plan would cover 900,000 families. The proposals include $1.2bn to renovate thousands of under-used public housing units, and about $2bn to help support construction in hard-hit areas. Initial reaction President Obama has promised to set aside part of the housing plan for rent subsidy, which would be reserved for two million lower-income families. Some of those families may just make too much to qualify for government help in the first place, especially in regions that continue to suffer the effects of the financial crisis. Britain’s brent council gets up to 40,000 applications a year and currently has waiting lists of up to 10 years. Getting basic things like work for a minimum wage is just a pipe dream to many In the New York area, rent assistance is relatively low. More and more of those people are moving into public housing – which receives benefits under the current system. Some move into public housing that is also crumbling badly, resulting in problems for those moving in and for the developers who are trying to rehabilitate the properties. In addition, many developers are able to claim major tax breaks and breaks from local government – which leaves less money in the overall rent subsidy system. Villages are being built, but rents in many of them are many hundreds of dollars per month above market level. Vera is one of the harder hit renters in a new area near Yankee Stadium, which can range from $1,000 to $3,000 per month in some areas. Half of her rent subsidy was due to go towards her payments but it is not clear when it will arrive.
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