Updated: 10:22 a.m. Thursday, July 10, 2014 | Posted: 3:46 p.m. Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Target 11: 24 public housing families make more than $50K per year
Target 11 always watches how your tax dollars are being spent, and now investigator Rick Earle has discovered your money is paying for the rent for some low-income housing recipients who make more than $100,000.
Earle obtained the data for every single household in the Pittsburgh Public Housing Authority, and took his findings to tenants.
PLEASE NOTE: The houses shown in this video do not necessarily represent households making $100,000 per year salaries.
Stephanie Miller pays $317 each month for rent, and she said she wishes she was one of those high earners.
“I wouldn’t be living in these projects,” she said.
Miller has lived in public housing for nearly three years, struggling to raise for kids on $800 a month.
The majority of the tenants in Pittsburgh Public Housing make about $14,000 a year, but Target 11 found 24 families earn more than $50,000 a year.
“That makes me feel very angry. Very, very, very angry,” one tenant said.
Target 11 found two families in public housing are pulling in more than six figures: one at $114,000, and another at $134,000.
"They're living hood rich. Project rich,” said tenant Ashley Smith.
Earle took his findings and tenants' concerns to the executive director of the Pittsburgh Housing Authority.
“If they are making that much money, should they be allowed to stay in public housing?” Earle asked.
“That’s not my say. I just implement the law,” said Caster Binion, explaining that a government rule allows families to remain regardless of how their income changes.
Castor said the families moved in when they were earning far less, and he said the figures now include other people.
“The kids stay there longer, but they're unable to have affordable housing for themselves and they stay with the parents,” he said. “When you talk all the those incomes and combine them, that's how you get to that number.”
Binion said those 24 families represent less than 1 percent of families in public housing, but that is little consolation to the 3,000 people on the waiting list and other tenants who’d like to see high earners move out.
“You can get a house rent-to-own, you know,” one said.
The Housing Authority said it can’t kick out these high-income earners, but officials try to convince them that home ownership is a better option.
A congressman from Tennessee who discovered a similar situation in his community has asked the inspector general to launch an investigation.
Niki Edwards, Regional Public Affairs Officer at the Office of Field Policy and Management for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released the following statement Wednesday: “Public housing tenants must be low income to qualify for initial occupancy of public housing, and, generally, as income increases, the amount of rent owed will increase. A certain percentage of extremely low-income families must be served by each housing authority (40%).
“HUD public housing regulations do not force a tenant out of public housing as a result of an increase in income above the income qualification standards. Also, HUD regulations do not permit public housing authorities to evict families for having a higher income than would have initially qualified the family for occupancy.”
The Housing Authority would not give us the names or addresses of the high income earners. So the video in Rick’s story is from a variety of public housing sites across the city.